KINGSTON residents should not fear cuts to services when the state government’s rates capping policy comes into force next financial year, according to Kingston Council.
Council corporate services manager Paul Franklin has assured Kingston residents that “council is well-prepared for rate capping and has taken it into account in its planning forecasts for the next several years”.
The Labor state government crunched the rate rise numbers for councils across Victoria to reveal ratepayers faced an average rates rise of 5.99 per cent for each of the past ten years.
Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins called the figure “an unfair and unsustainable burden for Victorian ratepayers”.
The government will cap Victorian councils’ rates from 2016-17 in a move to “ensure councils are more open and accountable with their budgets”.
Some councils believe the cap, dubbed the Fair Go Rates cap by the government, will mean councils will not be able to deliver expected services to ratepayers.
Ms Hutchins has dismissed this argument.
“Our Fair Go Rates cap won’t cut existing budgets and it won’t stop councils providing much-needed services and facilities,” she said in a statement released over the weekend.
“What it will deliver is greater value for money and councils that listen and respond to the needs of their community.”
Mr Franklin said Kingston Council’s rate rises for the past three years have been below the state average.
Council’s rates rose 4.45 per cent in 2013-14, 4.06 per cent in 2014-15 and 4.25 per cent for 2015-16.
“Kingston Council is very serious about providing quality services to our community in a financially responsible manner and has consistently seen rate rises below the state average,” Mr Franklin said.
Government statistics show Kingston Council’s rates have risen an average of 6.6 per cent over the past decade, with a 10 per cent rise in 2007-08 and 9.8 per cent jump in 2011-12 two financially painful peaks for ratepayers.
An Essential Services Commission report on Labor’s plan to cap council rates has recommended an annual cap of 3.05 per cent but the state government has not decided on a rate rise limit yet.
Councils will be able to appeal to the ESC to raise rates above any cap limit “in extraordinary circumstances” once the government’s policy comes into force.