Ratepayers question rate rise

RATES: The Whyalla Residents and Ratepayers Association members.
RATES: The Whyalla Residents and Ratepayers Association members.

The Whyalla Residents and Ratepayers Association have criticised the Whyalla City Council's rate rise of 3.5 per cent, saying that rates shouldn't be going up higher than the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

President Tom Antonio pointed to the seven rate rises between the years of 2008-2015 which were between 6 per cent and 9 per cent as evidence that currently rate increases should not go over CPI.

Currently CPI is at 1.8 per cent. Last year's council rate rise was above CPI by three per cent at 2.5 per cent.

In 2017/18 the rate rise of 0 per cent was below the CPI (2.3 per cent), while the 2016/17 rate increase of 1.9 per cent was equal with CPI. The previous year, the rate rise of 5 per cent was almost 4 per cent over CPI.

"It's not about not putting the rates up...you have put the rates up at CPI because the cost of living is going up and we have to maintain our assets," Mr Antonio said.

"But it's not good to put it up two times CPI."

Mr Antonio said the ratepayers association had forwarded a detailed list of questions around the council's budget and long-term financial plan to the elected body in June, but had not yet received a response.

"We need answers on these questions," he said.

"This city was never built for 23,000 people, it was built for three times that. The problem is that we have infrastructure so big it's falling apart," he said.

"What council need to do is find efficiencies in how to reduce our infrastructure to make it more feasible to save money. They haven't done that.

"We want to see efficiencies for the long-term viability of this city, we want to see what the long-term strategic plan is for the infrastructure is."

Despite the recent positive outlook the town has garnered in the media as a result of Sanjeev Gupta's purchase of the Whyalla Steelworks, Mr Antonio says people in the town are still hurting.

"All the welfare places are struggling to feed people. Sporting clubs are struggling to keep their doors open," he said.

Meanwhile council say the 3.5 per cent rate rise will 'set the city on a manageable financial path that will ensure all Council services and assets are maintained and improved in line with the Long Term Financial Plan'.

In a statement, CEO Chris Cowley said council were preparing responses to all 28 written submissions made during the 2019-2020 Draft Annual Business Plan and Budget public consultation period,

"All of the written submissions were appreciated and taken in consideration when finalising the business plan and budget," he said.

"Council replies to all written submissions after the draft annual business plan and budget is approved by the elected members."