The Essential Services Commission has confirmed 60% of ratepayers are still facing higher bills four years after the introduction of rate capping.
Commission Chair Kate Symons’ report “Outcomes of Rate Capping” begins by assuring council communities that “..in the first four years of rate capping, ratepayers have paid lower rates than they would have cone in the absence of rate capping.”
However she also notes that 60% of ratepayers still face increasing rates; and 44% face increases higher than the rate cap.
Reading further into the report it becomes clear the reason for this is that Councils have continued spending at ever increasing levels, and are simply topping up restricted rate revenue with funds from government grants and developer contributions.
This is not why rate capping was introduced.
Rate Capping was introduced to limit skyrocketing rate rises and make Councils deliver better services, more efficiently.
Ratepayers Victoria Committee Member Chan Cheah was directly involved with the research, formulation and introduction of rate capping during 2015-2106 under then Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins.
Rate Capping was supposed to be a three-phased project: first a cap, then efficiency guides and measures to help Councils improve budget management, and then finally, service level feedback from residents, to encourage Councils to aim for continuous improvement.
Instead, the Essential Services Commission has stopped after phase one.
And although the Local Government Act and numerous Council policies and Ministerial Guidelines all use the word ‘efficient’ there is no compulsion towards efficiency from any sector of Local Government.
Adding insult to apathy, the State Government’s decisions to increase grants to Councils and introduce developer contribution levies shows the State is complicit in Councils’ waste and mis-management.
Ratepayers Victoria says it is unacceptable for ratepayers to continue to shoulder the financial burden of Council inefficiency and mis-management simply because the Essential Services Commission has failed to implement reforms properly.