Just eight attend Clarence Valley Council rates meeting

ONLY eight Grafton residents turned out for the first community consultation meeting to discuss a proposed 8% rate rise over the next five years.

Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson was not too disheartened.

"It's a little disappointing, but there are a lot more ways these days to seek public opinion," he said.

"We have had a good response to the printed surveys council sent to ratepayers, so it may be the people feel they have already had a say."

Council staff have yet to count the survey replies, but estimate there are more than 2000 forms and another 400 replies on the digital system.

Cr Williamson said the hardest issue to get across to people was the 8% increase was on only one component of their rates bill.

"It is not 8% of the annual rates bill," he said. "In general, blunt terms it averages out between 4% and 5%."

Cr Williamson said the water and sewerage charges in the rates notice are likely to increase only at CPI level.

"For the past number of years they have increased at about 6% a year and now they should be around the 2% figure," the mayor said.

"In fact I've asked the general manager to look at those charges and justify the need for any increase.

"I want to see some rigour around those areas, there's certainly not going to be any gold-plating of those services."

Council's waste collection charges remained the same for 2015-16 year and were forecast to increase by just a few dollars.

Cr Williamson said that result was due to community acceptance of the three-bin system which had led to reduced use of landfill and a consequent reduction in the fees paid to State Government.

The Mayor was looking forward to the community consultations in Maclean where he hoped to have a packed chamber.

"A lot of time is spent preparing the facts and figures and what they mean to ratepayers," he said.

"I would love to see the room filled choc-a-block." Cr Williamson said the full council documentation was available on the council website, including a spreadsheet providing a comparison of the proposed rate rises over the five year period.

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