Council clears deck to increase rates by 37%

CLARENCE Valley Council has cleared the way to apply for a 37% rate hike over the next five years.

Tuesday's extraordinary council meeting in Grafton adopted scenario three of the Revised Long Term Financial plan, which supported the council's proposal to apply for a 6.5% special rate variation (SRV) for five years from 2016-17.

It also adopted the revised 2014-17 Delivery Program, which included the 2015-16 Operational Plan, the Revised Revenue Policy, the amended 10-Year Long Term Financial Plan and the revised Asset Management Plan.

Approving the SRV was the final condition for the council to fulfil before it could apply to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for the SRV.

Two councillors, Jim Simmons and Andrew Baker, argued against seeking the rate rise.

Cr Simmons agreed the report was sound and indicated the sewer and water component of rates would drop significantly, but he still had misgivings.

He was also critical of the mention of more borrowing should council be in a position to borrow after it paid off current loans.

"I do not agree with the quantum of the Special Rates Variation," Cr Simmons said.

"Clarence Valley residents cannot sustain the increase in rates proposed."

Cr Baker was concerned the proposed rate rise did not encourage finding savings.

"We've been told they can find efficiency savings," he said. "They haven't been able to in the past, but we're told they're there.

"They should be doing all they can to find them."

He said the current council plans was taking the savings from the past and present for the benefit of people in the future.

Mayor Richie Williamson defended the decision, but said it was just the start of the hard work of making the council fit for the future.

He said both he and the council would limit the exposure of ratepayers to increased rates.

"If I can highlight the increase in water and sewerage over the next five years of 1.5% when we have seen charges, as articulated by Cr Simmons, of between 6.5% to 10% a year," he said.

The Mayor said the general manager has been asked to find more savings and these will be presented to council meeting next month.

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