New councillors block secretive rates rise
A SECRETIVE bid to raise shire rates was derailed last month when the attempt failed to gain absolute majority support in council.
New Crs Bill Manning, Craig Brook and Ben Bell voted against a proposed 0.9 per cent rates increase, which was passed 4-3.
However, it failed to gain a required absolute majority of more than half the council’s nine members in the absence of Shire President Brian Rayner and Cr Paula Greenway at the monthly council meeting.Read more
Cr Bell said it seemed counter-intuitive to raise money first and then work out how to spend it when the council had yet to decide how much it needed for this year’s budget.
“This has never come up in any formal discussion before now,” Cr Bell said.
“There is zero information in front of us about what we’re going to spend the money on, and no discussion about how we raise rates.
“We might work out something different but all we are doing here is voting on a lump sum.”
“The officer’s recommendation is just a predetermined number that none of us have discussed – we don’t know what the number should be until we know how much we need to spend.
Acting-President Therese Chitty and Crs Judy Dow, Rob Welburn and Eric Twine voted in favour of a 0.9 rates increase.
“I have been to two budget workshops and been through the figures quite thoroughly,” Cr Dow said.
“I am confident we can come in at 0.9.”
The motion was moved by Cr Twine and seconded by Cr Welburn after the 5-2 defeat of an earlier motion for no increase.
The zero per cent increase was moved by Cr Manning and seconded by Cr Brook who were the only two councillors to support it.
There was no mention of a proposed rates increase in the published council agenda.
The item appeared only as the heading “differential general rates” in “new business of an urgent nature” listed at the end of the meeting, with no supporting documents.
The packed public gallery was denied any information when councillors started debating proposed new rates on two sheets of paper that had not been distributed to visitors at the back of the chamber.
When The Herald caught Cr Chitty’s eye to bring it to her attention, she adjourned the meeting for five minutes to enable extra copies to be printed for the public gallery.
In answer to a question from Cr Bell, Shire CEO Stan Scott said there was enough time to advertise proposed new rates for 28 days’ public comment by the August 30 deadline required by law if a decision was deferred until July, after the new budget is decided.
“The timetable is feasible but I wouldn’t recommend it,” Mr Scott said.
“It’s always been the council’s choice to adopt a budget as early as possible.
“We’ve just received this year’s new valuations but no modelling has been done.”
Shire rates will now be set later this month.
Council voted 6-1 in May (Cr Bell against) for Mr Scott to identify “any factual errors” in Cr Bell’s published call for an eight per cent rates cut and prepare a response for publication in the Herald and the shire’s newsletter “to correct the public record” – no correction was received. – Ed.