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Time for rates change

The Minister for Local Government has been asked to commit to a full review of the local council rating system in Victoria.

Liberal Member for Western Victoria, Simon Ramsay, made the request in Parliament yesterday, a view consistent with the Opposition’s pledge to undertake a full review.

Mr Ramsay said ratepayers across Western Victoria need a new way for rates to be charged and for councils to find better ways to be funded.

Despite rate increases being capped, the Andrews Government’s move to annual valuations is having an impact with real increases closer to 5 per cent, or more.

Newspaper reports this week list the average rate rise for Northern Grampians farmers at 25 per cent. Mildura residents are facing a 23 per cent hike and 29 in the Mount Alexander Shire.

Regional councils are particularly struggling to fund ongoing programs, projects and maintenance.

“The current system of rating is out-dated and based on 19th Century English methodology which focussed on farmers and landowners,” Mr Ramsay said.

“Even without a drought on our doorsteps, it is easy to see that this is not a viable or fair way of collecting rates that ultimately serve the entire municipality.

“Recent efforts by some councils to do away with farm rate differentials are flawed and divisive.”

Mr Ramsay is arguing for a review of the rating system.

He wants a move towards more sustainable methods of funding and grants, including methods that acknowledge the revenue collection bias that city councils have over regional councils.

“Country councils can’t generate income the way big councils do, such as parking meters.”

He said regional councils are larger in land mass and have fewer ratepayers, leaving them at a squeeze to fund road maintenance and other public assets.

“Program and cost shifting from other tiers of Government also needs to be recognised and funded appropriately.

“The time is now for a new funding rating model for local government.”

Mr Ramsay was the Deputy Chair of the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee which recently tabled its latest inquiry: The Sustainability and Operational Challenges of Victoria’s Rural and Regional Councils. The findings and recommendations are consistent with Mr Ramsay’s concerns