Fending off the rate capping threat - Presidentís comment

Article image - Fending off the rate capping threat - Presidentís comment

Mayor Lorraine Rosenberg, President Local Government Association of South Australia

Less than a year out from the March 2018 State Election, rate capping is the most significant threat facing the local government sector in South Australia.

The Liberal Party has announced a rate capping policy, which, if they were to be elected, would see a limit placed on the percentage by which councils could annually increase their rates revenue.

They’ve proposed that this figure would be determined by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia and councils and communities who want to exceed the cap would need to apply for an exemption.

We believe decisions around council budgets are best made – and the impacts best understood – when they are made by the communities concerned, and having seen the effect it’s had interstate, our Association and sector are committed to fighting the implementation of rate capping in SA.

In light of this policy, the LGA of SA recently launched a three-phase campaign that we’ll run in the lead up to next year’s election.

The first two phases of this campaign will focus on promoting the extent and value of council services, in line with our ongoing work to increase awareness of and support for local government.

The third and final phase will actively oppose the policy of rate capping, and will include targeted and marginal seat campaigning.

Market research we undertook earlier this year confirmed that the majority of South Australians haven’t made up their mind on rate capping.

We believe that if they’re presented with the choice between a small reduction in rates increases and cuts to community services, they will vote against the policy.

While the LGA of SA will lead the charge, we’ve also written to all councils and asked them to commit to supporting and leveraging our work through their own marketing activities.

As a sector, we are committed to getting better, and are investigating opportunities to drive efficiencies through benchmarking for councils, boundary adjustment reform, and procurement.

We are supportive of genuine reforms that will make local government better, and improve the services we provide our communities.

However, rate capping is an assault on local democracy and decision making, and the position of our Association is to oppose this policy in any form – and we will.