In its application for a Special Rate Variation to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal Part B in early 2014, Richmond Valley made the following comment:There are a number of things which are interesting about “Section 3.2 Alternative funding
First, Council employed a consultant to look at the way in which it imposed rates on its ratepayers but no mention is made of the name of the consultant or the name of the report. We were never told that Council was undertaken such a review. VWD has been unable to find any reference to such a report being commissioned in council papers.
Second, the findings of the report were workshopped by councillors behind closed doors out of the public view. Ratepayers were not privy to this process and so therefore were unable to hold councillors to account for the conclusion that “the current structures and rating was considered suitable to the Council needs [whatever that means!]. We are told in the application that council holds ‘information sessions’ but a workshop is not an information session. A workshop is council doing business about a matter critical to ratepayers. VWD takes the view that this workshop was in fact a meeting of council at which business was discussed and formal conclusions reached about rating structures without public notification as required by the local government act. The critical conclusion that the the current structures and ratings were “considered suitable” should have been brought to a public meeting of council for ratification. It cannot sign off on such an important decision without a public meeting.
Third, the report was not published by council so we had no opportunity to review the findings of the report or subject it to independent scrutiny. Such scrutiny was critical given the dominance of council by councillors from Casino and previous history of an unfair rating structure imposed on ratepayers from coastal areas in breach of Council’s Charter under Section 8 of the Local Government Act which says that the imposition of rates should be fair.
Fourth, the conclusions and recommendations of the actual expert report were not made available to the community or to IPART as far as we are aware as part of their deliberations which begs the question was IPART doing its job. The consultant’s report should have been part of the Application to IPART. Not so.
Fifth, information about the review ONLY became available in the Application and was not mentioned before. Why not!?
VWD will now take steps to obtain a copy of the consultant’s report under the GIPA Act (Freedom of Information) so that we can see what the report had to say, how that matches with what council told IPART and how the cumulative effects of the rates will play out in the long run
VWD is aware that while Evans Head residential ratepayers are only 16.48% of the total residential ratepayer category for the Richmond Valley they have been paying 24.64% of the rates. Compare this with Casino which has 51.2% of residential ratepayers but pays only 44.19% of the rates burden.
In other words the residential ratepayers of Evans Head continue to subsidise the residential ratepayers of Casino.
The problem is highlighted further when a comparison is made between Casino and Evans Head alone. In 2012/3 Evans Head ratepayers were only 32% of the total number of residential ratepayers from Casino yet Evans Head paid 56% of the rates. So how is that fair?
For business a similar problem exists. Evans Head businesses were 19.97% of rateable properties yet paid 28.7% of the total rates burden for businesses across the whole Valley.
A straight Casino-Evans Head comparison shows that while Evans Head businesses were only 33.92% of the business ratepayers from Casino they paid 54.38% of the rate.
As Council has stuck with its old unfair rating structure the problem will be much worse with imposition of the cumulative 39.1% increase over time.
There is no doubt that Evans Head is being ripped off. Once figures are available under the GIPA Act the extent of this rip-off will be better quantified and should provide part of the necessary justification for making an application for the coastal areas to join with Ballina council where the figures will show we will be better off.
Enough is enough. Council is not treating Evans Head ratepayers fairly and the problem will only grow worse as the number of pensioners who can ill-afford to pay continues to increase.
As it presently stands more than 20% of the Evans Head population is on a pension and the % is growing.
Can we really afford to stay in Richmond Valley Council when we are treated so unfairly!