Merged councils hamstrung.
WP_Query Object ( [query] => Array ( [tag] => ipart ) [query_vars] => Array ( [tag] => ipart [error] => [m] => [p] => 0 [post_parent] => [subpost] => [subpost_id] => [attachment] => [attachment_id] => 0 [name] => [static] => [pagename] => [page_id] => 0 [second] => [minute] => [hour] => [day] => 0 [monthnum] => 0 [year] => 0 [w] => 0 [category_name] => [cat] => [tag_id] => 11823 [author] => [author_name] => [feed] => [tb] => [paged] => 0 [meta_key] => [meta_value] => [preview] => [s] => [sentence] => [title] => [fields] => [menu_order] => [embed] => [category__in] => Array ( ) [category__not_in] => Array (  => 22371 ) [category__and] => Array ( ) [post__in] => Array ( ) [post__not_in] => Array ( ) [post_name__in] => Array ( ) [tag__in] => Array ( ) [tag__not_in] => Array ( ) [tag__and] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__in] => Array (  => ipart ) [tag_slug__and] => Array ( ) [post_parent__in] => Array ( ) [post_parent__not_in] => Array ( ) [author__in] => Array ( ) [author__not_in] => Array ( ) [ignore_sticky_posts] => [suppress_filters] => [cache_results] => 1 [update_post_term_cache] => 1 [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1 [update_post_meta_cache] => 1 [post_type] => [posts_per_page] => 14 [nopaging] => [comments_per_page] => 50 [no_found_rows] => [order] => DESC ) [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object ( [queries] => Array (  => Array ( [taxonomy] => category [terms] => Array (  => 22371 ) [field] => term_id [operator] => NOT IN [include_children] => )  => Array ( [taxonomy] => post_tag [terms] => Array (  => ipart ) [field] => slug [operator] => IN [include_children] => 1 ) ) [relation] => AND [table_aliases:protected] => Array (  => wp_term_relationships ) [queried_terms] => Array ( [post_tag] => Array ( [terms] => Array (  => ipart ) [field] => slug ) ) [primary_table] => wp_posts [primary_id_column] => ID ) [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object ( [queries] => Array ( ) [relation] => [meta_table] => [meta_id_column] => [primary_table] => [primary_id_column] => [table_aliases:protected] => Array ( ) [clauses:protected] => Array ( ) [has_or_relation:protected] => ) [date_query] => [queried_object] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 11823 [name] => ipart [slug] => ipart [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 11823 [taxonomy] => post_tag [description] => ipart [parent] => 0 [count] => 41 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 11823 [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts LEFT JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1 AND ( wp_posts.ID NOT IN ( SELECT object_id FROM wp_term_relationships WHERE term_taxonomy_id IN (22364) ) AND wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (11823) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 14 [posts] => Array (  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25687 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-11-29 15:13:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-29 04:13:52 [post_content] =>The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has told NSW local councils to further rein in their spending by forbidding them from increasing their rates by more than 1.5 per cent next year, citing low inflation and minimal growth in costs. The rate peg has fallen continuously for NSW councils. Last year’s cap was 1.8 per cent. In 2003 the cap was 3.4 per cent. The cap is set by examining the price changes for goods, materials and labour that councils typically use over the past year, called the Local Government Cost Index. It is similar to the Consumer Price Index for households. The measure spells further financial pain for the state’s councils, which have laboured under ratecapping since 1978 and put up with a growing infrastructure backlog and cost shifting from other levels of government, leaving them struggling to contain costs while keeping services running. IPART Chair Peter Boxall said the figure was fair given low inflation and slow wage growth. “Ratepayers would benefit from the modest rate of public sector wages growth in recent years, as well as the continuing low inflationary environment. This has seen the cost of some items used by councils fall, including fuel, gas and telecommunication services," Mr Boxall said. But Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said that the rate peg was a “financial noose which continued to tighten” around councils. "In the five years to 2014/15, it averaged 2.9 per cent per annum - yet the cap for 2017/18 is half that,” Mr Rhoades said. "That means every year councils slip further and further behind," he said. He vehemently disagreed with Mr Boxall’s conclusions, especially where wages were concerned. "IPART has come to the 1.5 per cent figure despite an increase of 2.3 per cent in employee benefits and on-costs and an increase of 2.7 per cent in non-residential building construction costs, saying those price rises were partly offset by decreases in gas and fuel prices. "But that just fails to recognise the ongoing squeeze on councils that comes from the combination of rate-pegging and cost-shifting, and deteriorating infrastructure.” Councils that wish to set rates above the rate peg must apply for a one-off special rate variation, which many councils use to fund a particular projects, such as a new aquatic centre. This is not a straightforward process. Councils must consult their communities and prove that any increase over the cap is justified, as well as show evidence of long-term financial planning and productivity improvements. But the 19 new NSW councils created in May 2016 will not be able to apply for a special rate variation. These councils have already been told by NSW Premier Mike Baird that they will not be able to increase their rates beyond the normal trajectory for each of the old council areas for four years. Mr Rhoades said the measly rate peg was not good news for any of NSW's local councils. "The reality is that rates have not kept pace with the cost of services and infrastructure that local government is expected to deliver,” he said. "The whole system is set up to make councils look inefficient and financially profligate, when the opposite is true." [post_title] => IPART reduces rate peg again: NSW councils told to tighten their belts [post_excerpt] => Merged councils hamstrung. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25687 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-02 10:24:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-01 23:24:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25687 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24827 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-08-29 16:38:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-08-29 06:38:26 [post_content] => The peak body for NSW local councils has welcomed the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) draft report on council rates but says the Tribunal is “fiddling around the edge” by leaving ratepegging untouched. IPART released the draft report, Review of the Local Government Rating System, last week putting forward a number of suggestions on how to rejig the state’s council rates. These included letting councils set rates based on the capital improved value (CIV) of land, rather than its unimproved value (UV), reducing the number of rate exemptions and setting rates based on land use, not ownership. Other recommendations including allowing councils to set different rates for different parts of their local government area, scrapping some pensioner concessions and deferring rates and introducing new rates categories, including some for environmental and vacant land, business and farmland. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said he was encouraged by the recommendations, particularly those around lifting rate exemptions for commercial and profit-making enterprises on what was currently categorised as unrateable land. Rhoades said that another bright spot for councils was the ability to base council rates on the improved value of land, redressing the situation where unit and apartment owners paid relatively lower rates than housing owners. “This flexibility has the potential to make it easier for councils to be more responsive to the service and infrastructure needs of residents and ratepayers, particularly as we look ahead to a significant increase in the density of many metropolitan areas,” Rhoades said. But nowhere in the recommendations is there any mention of dumping the hated ratepegging regime, a system which has placed an annual cap on NSW local council’s rates since 1979 and forced councils to grovel for a special rates variations when they wish to exceed the cap. Rhoades said: “I commend IPART for seeking to address the very real revenue issues facing local government, but it is unfortunate that the terms of reference under which they are operating only allows the Tribunal to make recommendations which fiddle around the edges of the problem. “IPART Chair Dr Peter Boxall has made it clear that the draft recommendations are more about spreading the rate burden more equitably among ratepayers, rather than increasing the revenue councils need to deliver the infrastructure and services demanded by their communities. “This does not address the core issue facing councils, which is how to fund the services and infrastructure communities’ demand while being squeezed at both ends by rising costs and capped revenue.” Ratepegging is always a hot topic at every local government gathering, the recent LGNSW Finance Summit being no exception. Councils once again raised the system as being a significant revenue problem and called for it to be abandoned. The NSW Local Government Independent Review Panel identified ratepegging as problematic in their 2013 Revitalising Local Government Report. The Panel found that ratepegging in NSW had “significant unintended consequences” for the state’s local councils, which included setting up unrealistic expectations that rates should be contained indefinitely, despite rising expenditure; deep spending cuts leading to a mounting infrastructure backlog and councils being reluctant to apply for SRVs, even when necessary. “The Panel’s conclusion is that, whilst there is certainly a case for improving efficiency and keeping rate increases to affordable levels, the rate-pegging system in its present form impacts adversely on sound financial management,” said the report. “It creates unwarranted political difficulties for councils that really can and should raise rates above the peg to meet genuine expenditure needs and ensure their long-term sustainability.” The panel instead suggested taking a lighter regulatory approach and giving councils the flexibility to raise rates up to 5 per cent above the cap, provided there was consultation with the public and a strong case was made. The draft report, which was released for feedback from councils and other stakeholders, will not be finalised until December. The deadline for feedback is October 14. [post_title] => IPART "fiddling around the edge” with NSW local council rates [post_excerpt] => Ratepegging here to stay. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => ipart-fiddling-around-edge-nsw-local-council-rates [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-08-30 10:45:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-08-30 00:45:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24827 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24757 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-08-22 12:59:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-08-22 02:59:17 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24763" align="alignnone" width="320"] Perks over? Central Park, Sydney.[/caption] NSW apartment owners should pay higher council rates, pensioners should pay back rates concessions and there should be fewer exemptions, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has said. The Tribunal’s draft review of the NSW local government rating system out today (Monday) makes some key recommendations that are likely to give the state’s local councils something to smile about. IPART has said that the review aims to make rates collection fairer and more efficient, keep services consistent and to make councils more sustainable long term and has insisted that it is not an attempt to increase the overall amount collected through local government rates. Another objective is to reduce council’s reliance on special rates variations, where they must apply to the Tribunal if they wish to set rates above the agreed rates cap. The review examines how rates are calculated, what exemptions are allowed and the rating categories used. Here are the main points of the draft review’s recommendations:
- Give councils the choice to set the variable component of rates based on the capital improved value (CIV) of land, not its unimproved value (UV). This means apartment owners are likely to pay higher rates where there is usually a high capital value relative to land value
- Change rate exemptions so they are based on land use, not ownership
- Dump some rate exemptions where land is used for commercial or residential purposes
- Replace current pensioner concession scheme with a NSW government-funded rate deferral scheme
- New rating categories if councils want them, including environmental and vacant land, business and farmland
- Let councils set different rates for different parts of a local government area, to reflect access and demand for services and the cost of providing them
- New councils (under mergers) to continue existing rates or set different rates for pre-merger areas once the four-year rate path freeze is over
Even marches, petitions, public meetings and Alan Jones in full flood could not stop nineteen new NSW councils being created, and run by administrators, until local government elections in September next year. NSW Governor David Hurley proclaimed the new councils yesterday as 45 councils became 19. [See full list at the end of this article]. Premier Mike Baird called it “the most comprehensive local government reform in more than 100 years” while others called it a betrayal of local government and their communities. “We are ensuring our communities have stronger and more efficient councils, which will free up money for important projects such as local roads, parks, playgrounds and footpaths,” Mr Baird said. “Our plan to create stronger new councils in Sydney and regional NSW will be supported by NSW Government investment of about $500 million." Merging councils have been promised $10 million each towards the cost of merging and $15 million to invest in community infrastructure through the Stronger Communities Fund. The statistics Twenty three councils received a stay of execution because their nine merger proposals are still the subject of legal challenges but Local Government Minister Paul Toole has said he backs these mergers ‘in principle’ and wants them to go ahead. Those on death row include Woollahra, Mosman, Botany Bay and Ku-ring-gai, councils which remain adamant they will not be merged. Three mergers proposals were late bids by councils who submitted alternative merger proposals and the verdict is not yet known. Fourteen mergers were dropped by the government. Who will run councils? Councillors and mayors have been sacked wholesale but thrown the consolation prize of being invited to join advisory groups and local representative committees. Mr Toole backed away from dispensing of general managers after receiving advice that it would prove too costly to buy out their contracts. Instead, an interim GM will be chosen in each new council and the remaining general manager will stay on board until the 2017 local council elections. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said the whole sector felt betrayed by the state government’s decision. "If it wasn't for a range of vehement campaigns by grassroots communities and the local government sector, the Baird Government would have bulldozed through an even more extensive and undemocratic reform process long ago,” Mr Rhoades said. "The process itself has been one long litany of mistakes and miscalculations and dubious dealings by the Government, and it's telling that both IPART and now the Boundaries Commission have felt compelled to disassociate themselves from the political decisions being made," he said. But Mr Toole disagreed: “Many people have taken the opportunity to have their say during the consultation process, by speaking at inquiries or making written submissions. The NSW Government has listened to community concerns and created new wards that reflect the identity of existing communities,” he said. He said services would operate as normal in new council areas and planning protections would remain in place with existing Local Environmental Plans enforced under the new councils. Impact on the federal election Mr Baird has backpedalled on a number of politically controversial mergers, especially those that appear to be in marginal Coalition federal seats, such as the wildly unpopular merger between Kiama and Shoalhaven in the federal seat of Gilmore or the merger between Tamworth and Walcha, where Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is beating back a challenge from Independent Tony Windsor to keep his seat. But a late proposal to merge Walcha with Armidale-Duresq, Guyra and Uralla looks set to proceed – the delegate’s report recommended it should – but the government has said the decision is “pending”, presumably until after the July 2 federal election. Meanwhile, talkback host Alan Jones accused Mr Baird of sabotaging Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's chances on the hustings. Opposition Leader Luke Foley has promised to give people the oportunity to de-amalgamate their councils, if he is elected in 2019. Mr Rhoades said: "You can't pretend it's not inherently political when the only councils to escape amalgamation are those that happen to fall into marginal federal electorates in the middle of an election campaign." "It's now a matter for voters, many of whom may well choose to express their anger and sense of betrayal at the ballot box at the first opportunity," he said. Labor accuses Baird of imposing dictatorship by boundary rigging and gerrymandering NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley immediately attacked the forced mergers, directly accused Mr Baird of forming new councils based on political motivations rather than what communities wanted, with boundaries drawn-up along partisan lines. He told ABC 702 that mergers in Sydney were based on diluting Labor voter influence and concentrating the Coalition’s base. “This is just a gerrymander for the Liberal Party’s electoral interest, it’s boundary rigging plain and simple,” Mr Foley said. “It’s a travesty of democracy." Mr Foley specifically called out the case of Kogarah, Hurstville and Rockdale that could have formed a “genuine” St George council. “Instead they bring only two together, Kogarah-Hurstville [and] keep Rockdale out. Why? Too many Labor voters,” he said. “Put Rockdale with Botany … they are only separated by Botany Bay and an international airport. What’s the community of interest?” Mr Foley said. He said elected representatives had been sacked by the stroke of a pen and replaced by hand-picked appointees. Mr Foley said administrators had been given “dictatorial powers” and said the appointees were not accountable to ratepayers. The Opposition leader then recycled former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s position, saying that if elected he will let communities decide their own fates and allow referenda to de-merge councils. “I’m not opposed to mergers," Mr Foley said. “I’m opposed to the breathtaking lack of democracy where elected representatives are sacked and replaced by hand-picked unelected administrators with dictatorial powers.” More to follow
Mergers proceeding immediatelyArmidale, Dumaresq, and Guyra councils to become Armidale Regional Council Bankstown and Canterbury councils become Canterbury-Bankstown Council Gosford and Wyong councils become Central Coast Council Parramatta and part of Hills, Auburn, Holroyd and Hornsby councils become City of Parramatta Council Auburn and Holroyd councils become Cumberland Council Conargo and Deniliquin councils become Edward River Council Corowa and Urana councils become Federation Council Hurstville and Kogarah councils Georges River Council Cootamundra and Gundagai councils become Gundagai Council Bombala, Cooma Monaro and Snowy River councils become Snowy Monaro Regional Council Boorowa, Harden and Young councils become Hilltops Council Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville councils become Inner West Council Gloucester, Great Lakes and Greater Taree councils become Mid-Coast Council Murray and Wakool councils become Murray River Council Jerilderie and Murrumbidgee councils become Murrumbidgee Council Manly, Pittwater and Warringah councils become Northern Beaches Council Queanbeyan and Palerang councils become Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Tumut and Tumbarumba councils become Snowy Valleys Council Dubbo and Wellington councils become Western Plains Regional Council
Mergers still supported by the Baird Government but held up in courtBotany and Rockdale Randwick, Waverly and Woollahra Bathurst and Oberon Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Blayney, Cabonne and Orange Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde Burwood, Canada Bay and Strathfield Shellharbour and Wollongong
Merger Proposals still pending (kicked into touch)Newcastle and Port Stephens Dungog and Maitland Armidale-Dumaresq, Guyra, Walcha and Uralla [post_title] => Baird crushes NSW council mergers resistance with iron fist [post_excerpt] => Nineteen new councils, more to follow. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => baird-crushes-nsw-council-merger-resistance-iron-fist [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-17 17:06:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-17 07:06:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23859 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23848 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-05-11 15:30:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-11 05:30:43 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23850" align="alignnone" width="350"] Light rail at Glebe station this week.[/caption] It's time to wave goodbye to your free Opal trips, says the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). The state’s hard-nosed price regulator released a report yesterday (Tuesday) recommending that commuters should no longer get free travel after notching up eight journeys in a week but instead pay half-price for any extra journeys taken. Also on the cards is a push to raise the daily cap on the Gold Opal card $2.50 to $3.60, which would affect seniors and concession card holders, but IPART backed away from an earlier recommendation to means-test access to the card for seniors. Commuters could also take a hit if the government agrees with IPART’s suggestion to increase the cap on adult Opal fares from $15 to $18 for travelling Monday to Friday with a daily cap of $7.20 at the weekend. On the positive side, people changing between different forms of transport, such as switching from light rail to bus, would receive a $2 rebate, to offset paying twice. People travelling on off-peak trains would also pay less. IPART Chief Dr Peter Boxall said despite public transport operating costs being forecast to fall by around 5 per cent over the next three years, overall costs were continuing to rise as services were improved and expanded through projects such as the CBD and South-East light rail extension and the Sydney Metro. “Right now, the efficient cost of providing the rail, bus, ferry and light rail services in Sydney and surrounding areas is around $4.8 billion a year,” Dr Boxall said. “While operating costs per trip are reducing overall, total efficient costs will rise to around $5.6 billion a year by 2018-19.” “Some fare increases are needed to ensure the additional costs are not borne entirely by taxpayers, but also by those who use public transport the most. This determination means that fares will continue to cover around 25 per cent of efficient costs, with taxpayers funding the remaining 75 per cent. reflecting the benefits public transport provides to the whole community such as reduced congestion and cleaner air.” The state government has not yet decided whether it will implement the IPART’s suggestions. If it does, it will face a backlash from commuters, seniors and concession card holders. The clampdown on free journeys could be viewed as a Trojan horse for scrapping the free/half-price rides completely, something that IPART initially backed. The cap increases and withdrawal of free journeys could prove to be the price signals that tip commuter behaviour. Combined with what appears to be a service increasingly under pressure, people could begin to desert public transport and the costs of encouraging people back onto the roads need to be taken into account, before the government decides on the proposed changes. Light rail trains at peak time are now as crowded as the London Underground in its worse moments, with some passengers unable to board trains and those inside jammed in and miserable. Even trains at off-peak times (outside the hours of 8am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm) are often uncomfortably full. Transport NSW put on “up to 90 additional services” from January 25 this year, with services arriving every eight minutes, rather than every 10 during peak times from Monday to Friday but the light rail appears to have become a casualty of its own success. Transport NSW was contacted for comment. The state government will decide whether or not to implement the proposals by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in the coming weeks. [post_title] => Baird told to scrap Opal public transport freebies [post_excerpt] => Commuters could desert crowded light rail. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => no-thing-free-ride-opal-lost-sheen [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-13 11:16:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-13 01:16:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23848 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23719 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-04-26 18:39:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-04-26 08:39:15 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23722" align="alignnone" width="585"] Pic: Defusable Alarm Clock by Nootropic Design.[/caption] A four-year freeze on rates for newly merged NSW councils is a ticking time bomb, says the state’s local government peak body. Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) held a public forum today (Tuesday) to thrash out possible changes to how rates are calculated, including examining how NSW Premier Mike Baird can impose the extended freeze on amalgamating councils’ rates and whether councils should be able to apply for a special rate rise during this time. Read more about the inquiry here. Mr Baird has said he wants merging councils to stick to a rating trajectory as if they had not merged and he is under pressure to keep his promise that rates will not rise – and may even fall – under new mega councils. Shaun McBride, Senior Strategy Manager at Local Government NSW (LGNSW), called it “bad policy” and said: “Apart from freezing [rates], you almost set a time bomb for the end of year four”, when he said ratepayers could be hit with sudden rate hikes. “This policy is going to mean harmonisation doesn’t really commence until year four, when I think you should be completing the rate structure harmonisation by the end of year four,” he said. “We can foresee all types of problems with this.” Mr McBride said the rates freeze conflicted with the stated main aim of the Fit for the Future program, which was to make councils financially stable. “It will create and perpetuate division in the community between councils with higher or lower rate structures and prolong the process. “At the end of the four-year period councils might go for a one-off increase in special rate variations and the difference between high rating [councils] and low rating has probably grown in that period.” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said the terms of reference for the inquiry directed IPART to recommend the best way to freeze rate paths for four years. "It's understandable that the State Government wants to be seen as the good guys in this exercise - but the reality is that a four-year rate path freeze for amalgamating councils will only exacerbate the very real problems the review is supposed to help fix,” Mr Rhoades said. "We're undermining the chance of a comprehensive solution before we start." "It's easy to label councils greedy or lazy in a three-second sound-bite, but that sort of superficial approach achieves nothing," he said. "It certainly doesn't deliver the outcome we all want, which is a financially sustainable local government system able to deliver the right level of services to residents and ratepayers.” Rates are one of the many complicated issues that merging councils need to address. There may be large differences in rates and service levels between merging councils, as well as differences in fees and charges, such as parking fines. The aim is to equalise these elements over the years under the new, larger councils but it is up for debate how gradually this should be done and when the transition should begin. LGNSW has argued the last three decades of ratepegging, combined with freezing the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants and higher levels of cost-shifting from state and federal government onto local councils has caused a hefty infrastructure backlog and misery for local councils. The organisation backs a proposal allowing merging councils to apply for special rate variations under a broad range of circumstances, including to finance new infrastructure or to renew existing infrastructure. Other subjects for discussion during the IPART review include changing the method used to calculate rates. One suggestion is to base them on the Capital Improved Value (CIV) of land – more easily understood by the public as the market value - rather than the Unimproved Land Value. NSW Valuer General Simon Gilkes said that developing a database capable of capturing this information – would cost “tens of millions”, although this could obviously be balanced by any increases in revenue if the system was introduced. Victoria, which bases its rates on the CIV, has had a database capturing property improvements since the 1960s. “We need to capture a lot of data to move to a new capital improvement value system. It’s complex and expensive,” Mr Gilkes said. It is a switch that many local councils support, particularly those in high density areas, as it would push apartment owners to pay higher rates, although it could also discourage people from doing renovations. There was also heated debate over whether the raft of organisations entitled to rate exemptions should change, this includes schools, hospitals, churches and charities. Local government is also pushing the state to fully fund rate rebates given to pensioners, which is currently a 50:50 deal in NSW but fully funded in other states, such as South Australia and WA. The General Manager of Tumut Shire Council, Bob Stewart, said 62 per cent of his council’s area was unrateable as it contained thousands of kilometres of state forest, national parks and dams. Mr Stewart said that some commercial companies were exempt from rates, despite turning a profit and using council-provided services. Mr McBride said some rating exemptions were a hangover from the late 1800s and they were overdue for a rethink. LGNSW backs partials or scaled exemptions or rate rebates to “better target exemptions” instead of the current system. Submissions to the IPART rates review close on May 13 and an interim report expected to land on NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole’s desk in June. The final report is expected in December 2016. [post_title] => Rates time bomb for NSW mega councils [post_excerpt] => Four-year rates freeze for merged councils. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => rates-freeze-on-nsw-mega-councils-a-ticking-time-bomb [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-04-28 19:52:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-04-28 09:52:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23719 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23619 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-04-13 17:04:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-04-13 07:04:49 [post_content] => NSW Premier Mike Baird has opened the door for potential rate increases, especially for buyers of apartments and multi-unit dwellings, aftert asking regulator the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) with a wholesale review of the local government rating system. Income from rates is critical to councils, who use the levies on property owners to fund a broad range of services and infrastructure. However, the way in which rates are set and at what levels, has long been a battleground for cash-strapped local governments, particularly since the introduction of rate capping in NSW in 1979. IPART Chairman Peter Boxall said the $4 billion collected in rates by NSW councils was a major source of funding for local government. “This is an opportunity to revisit all aspects of how rates are levied and to design a system that better supports the sustainable operation of local government in the future and is more equitable. “With billions of dollars and the provision of important services involved, a rating system that is efficient, equitable and sustainable is critical to the good performance of local government for the benefit of the NSW community,” Dr Boxall said. Rates have also been central to the arguments on both sides of the forced council amalgamation debate. While Mr Baird has promised downward pressure on rates from council mergers, opponents of forced mergers have argued that this is unrealistic and that mergers force them up. Reviewing the rates system was one of the key recommendations of the October 2013 Independent Local Government Review Panel’s report. The key issues that the IPART review will look at are: • Giving councils greater flexibility with the valuation method used to calculate rates. This will include considering whether councils could start charging rates based on the improved value of land, rather than the unimproved value. Land value is currently split between apartments in multi-unit dwellings. • Removing some rate exemptions. Exempt land uses include land used by schools, charities, public hospitals, charities and national parks. Exempt people include pensioners. • Changing the rates system to “improve councils’ long-term financial sustainability and encourage urban renewal.” Could getting rid of the much-hated rate capping be in the offing? • Implementing the government’s promise to freeze rates for four years in areas where councils have merged • Establishing a fair rates system after the four-year freeze on merged council rates • Examining whether the current rating categories of: residential, business, mining and farmland are appropriate You can find the issues paper here. Developers unconvinced Property developers were immediately suspicious of the push. Urban Taskforce chief Chris Johnson said he was concerned that the rates system review could affect the desirability of living in apartments and multi-unit dwellings. Charges rates based on the improved value of land, for example with a new block of flats on it, has the potential to hit strata owners, apartment dwellers - via rate increases passed on as higher rents - and developers. Mr Johnson said higher rates could hit the benefits of living close to public transport and jobs and the economic spin-offs from this: “I would be worried if the government encouraged local councils to [add] more costs, which means you lose some of the economic gains.” He said the forced amalgamations process and the stress on financial sustainability had led to more councils being “hungrier in terms of looking into ways of making more money.” “I think that IPART needs to be careful in their review of rates and to be aware that there are other mechanisms happening where councils are raising extra funds. “I suspect rates will go up in certain areas. It will have an impact on apartments but marginal rate increases would not upset anyone too much. “The danger here is to push the boundaries a bit too far and I think government is already starting to say: “let’s get value capture out of apartments and contributions to infrastructure and use the improved value.” Mr Johnson said it could deter people from living in and buying apartments. “Sydney can’t keep growing horizontally," he said. Ratepayers living in council areas slated for mergers will also be interested in the results of the review. The government has pledged “no change to the existing rate paths for newly merged councils for four years.” IPART has said it interprets this to mean “the rating path in each pre-merger council’s area will follow the same trajectory as if the merger had not occurred.” The review will take into account whether special rate variations should be allowed under certain circumstances, e.g. when Crown Land is transferred to councils or to fund a specific project. Submissions close on May 13. You can comment here, or attend a public hearing in Sydney, which will be webcast, on April 26. An interim report from IPART is due on NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole’s desk by June 17 and the draft will be released publicly in August, with a final report in December. [post_title] => Baird kicks open door to rate rises with fresh IPART inquiry [post_excerpt] => Four-year freeze on merged council rates examined. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => baird-opens-the-door-to-rate-rises-with-fresh-ipart-inquiry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-04-14 20:16:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-04-14 10:16:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23619 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23404 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-03-21 19:53:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-21 08:53:09 [post_content] => Thousands of enterprising Sydney commuters chalking-up $2 million a year in ‘free’ Opal trip value on Transport for NSW’s equivalent to frequent flyer points are about to be derailed and un-rewarded, all thanks to changes to the popular smartcard ticket that hit Monday. After more than a year of successfully milking a free trips incentive to extract Opal network-wide travel for as little $18 a week, commuters participating in so-called ‘Opal-running’ have been warned a crackdown on the short-hop journeys they use to game the free travel reward will now force them to travel at least twice as much before they make their quota. The ‘Weekly Travel Reward’ had been intended to encourage commuters into using public transport more frequently, especially those travelling greater distances who might otherwise find driving cheaper than regularly using public transport. It gives Opal card commuters free travel after eight paid journeys, largely based on the assumption that commuters heading to and from work will space out their travel and pay for the vast majority of what they use. But the pursuit of the free transit prize among eager commuters on Mondays quickly escalated into something between a sport and a cult among inner city passengers, who have increasingly clocking-up extra journeys wherever possible to reach the free fare target, especially on the Light Rail within the CBD. If you travel at full peak fare from the outer suburbs, it makes a lot of financial sense to chalk-up lots of the cheapest short journeys first day of the week and then travel free. 'Cheating' still not illegal Although not illegal, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has accused those milking the fare system of ripping off other commuters and the government by “running, cycling, driving or even roller-skating between train stations or light rail stops to tap on and off.” Put another way, the NSW government is primarily worried about the financial hit and wider inequity that Opal fare gamers are apparently creating, given it can’t actually prosecute anyone for jumping on a tram or train with a valid ticket. “It’s unfair that customers doing the right thing and paying to actually use transport are being cheated by people who are using their own or other people’s cards to artificially inflate their journeys. Some are even using the practice as a business model to earn money,” Mr Constance said. However the Labor Opposition’s Shadow Transport Minister, Jodi McKay isn’t impressed by the Opal crackdown and has accused the Baird Government of sending conflicting signals to commuters. Ms McKay said that in 2014, despite the government being alerted to the problem, then Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian had encouraged commuters to game the system. “They have known about this for a very long time and are only now doing something about it,” Ms McKay said. “It is a complete contradiction – one Transport Minister saying ‘hey beat the system’ and then the next one saying ‘no, don’t … and we are going to make it harder.” Ms McKay also questioned why Mr Constance had asked for more time for the Government to respond to an Independent and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) analysis of public transport fares which she said could see some commuters slugged as much as $950 extra a year. “They know how unpopular this whole thing is, but have given no explanation for the delay,” Ms McKay said. Rorting epicenter The epicenter of the present fare rorting problem appears to be in downtown Haymarket and Pyrmont where Light Rail stops are just a few hundred metres apart, making it easily time effective to clock-up Opal taps by walking between stops. Businesses with offices serviced by the Star City Casino stop include Google, Fairfax Media, Accenture and Channel 7. Transport sources have told Government News Transport for NSW could disable the Opal readers at light rail stops until just before a tram arrives, but this would then increase ‘dwell times’ and slow down the service, especially during peak times. Government News has also observed some passengers even opportunistically tapping-off on one reader and then tapping back on during the same journey in an effort to accrue journeys, although it’s unclear how effective this actually is. To back his case for the crackdown Mr Constance on Monday released statistics that showed a whopping 63,636 journeys on the light rail made between Star City Casino and Pyrmont Bay on Mondays compared to just 1469 journeys on Wednesday between 1st February and 6th March this year. Light rail fans aren’t the only fanatical group exploiting Opal’s incentives. Mr Constance’s statistics reveal trips between the Inner West heavy rail stops of Erskinville and Macdonaldtown chalked-up 6465 journeys on Mondays in the same period, an impressive piece of footwork considering the stations – which are only 470 metres apart – are on completely different rail lines. Stops are Tops: Monday hotpsots for serial Opal abusers (Source: Transport for NSW)
|Pyrmont Bay to Star City stops & back (300m apart)||63,636||8,198||1,469||313||149||110||481|
|Paddy’s Market to Capital Square stops & back (280m apart)||30,285||9,408||2,434||647||238||193||714|
|Macdonaldtown to Erskineville stations & back (470m apart)||6,465||1,142||178||51||14||6||6|
Ratepegging here to stay.
Apartment owners likely to pay more.
Incredible shrinking farebox.
Nineteen new councils, more to follow.
Commuters could desert crowded light rail.
Four-year rates freeze for merged councils.
Four-year freeze on merged council rates examined.
Weekly Travel Reward crackdown
Infrastructure backlog unloaded onto ratepayers.
The third economy could lose billions.
Government’s merger case weak: councils.
Will tinkering erode public trust?