Rates rise unhappy emotions

Macedon Ranges council (Damjan Janevski). 322848_01

Zoe Moffatt

Macedon Ranges council will not write to the state government to express its concern about the upcoming rate cap, following extensive debate in the chamber.

The cap for the 2024-25 financial year has been set at 2.75 per cent, down from the 3.5 per cent cap that was in place for 2023-24. It is still higher than in 2022-23 and 2021-22, which were both under two per cent due to COVID-19.

The local government minister each year sets a local council rate cap limit for the next financial year, which was first introduced in 2016.

Councillor Geoff Neil raised the notice of motion on February 28, and said he cannot recall when the cap was equal to Consumer Price Index (CPI). CPI is a quarterly measure of inflation.

“It has invariably been set at a rate below CPI, thus we have been chasing our tails since the rate cap was introduced,” Cr Neil said.

“We suffer from CPI increases just like everyone else. Our expenses are getting higher and our revenue is not keeping pace.”

Cr Neil said he was asking the minister to reconsider her position, and set the rate cap in line with CPI.

“There is only so much squeezing one can take before the juice runs out,” he said.

“The rate cap… doesn’t recognise the increased costs we are facing, maintaining the status quo let alone delivering new services that meet our community expectations.”

Cr Jennifer Anderson disagreed with the notice and said council needs to look at a more holistic picture of the financial sustainability of councils.

“I think trying to link a rate cap to CPI in isolation is not the right mechanism to do this,” she said.

“CPI is a calculation about everyday living and council is not everyday living. We will share some costs with the community but there are a lot of council costs that are very different to community costs.

“There are a lot of other issues facing local governments now to do with financial sustainability that is not just to do with the rate cap.

“It needs to be a more holistic picture… [and] involve the community, involve our colleagues and have actual call to action and look for solutions.”

Cr Bill West, Cr Neil and Cr Dominic Bonanno voted for the motion. Cr Janet Pearce, Cr Anderson, Cr Mark Ridgeway, Cr Annette Death, Cr Christine Walker and Cr Rob Guthrie all voted against the motion.