Lachlan Shire rate rise approved by IPART

By Melissa Blewitt

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has approved Lachlan Shire Council’s (LSC) application for a special rate variation of 32.31 per cent.

The rate rise will happen over the next four years.

LSC applied for an increase of 6.8 per cent in 2016-17 and 7.4 per cent in each of the next three years, 2017-18 to 2019-20, including the rate peg, to be retained permanently in the rate base.

The rate increase was seen as an imperative part of Council’s bid to ‘stand alone’, and help them meet several financial, infrastructure and efficiency targets.

“Council is very pleased that its submission has been approved in full as the increase is essential for Council to meet the Fit for the Future targets set by the NSW Government and allows Lachlan Shire Council to be a stand-alone Council in the future,” LSC General Manager Robert Hunt said.

“Council received great community support for its Keep Lachlan Local campaign and for the special rate variation application and these two factors proved the difference in Lachlan Shire Council either remaining autonomous or being merged, as was the case recently with many other councils across the state.

“On behalf of Council I can assure you that the increased funds raised from the special rate variation ($260,000 in 2016/17) will see an increase in maintenance and construction throughout the Shire over the coming years.”

“Based on Lachlan Shire Council’s application, in 2016-17 the average residential rate would increase by $31, the average business rate by $35, and the average farmland rate by $182,” IPART Chairman Peter Boxall said.

Dr Boxall said the council’s application was assessed against the NSW Government’s published criteria. All submissions received from ratepayers, community groups and other stakeholders were also considered.

“Lachlan Shire Council was able to meet the criteria for approval of the special variation by demonstrating a clear need for the additional revenue, and that it is taking steps to improve productivity and contain costs,” he explained.

In approving the council’s application, IPART has imposed conditions requiring the additional income be used for the purposes outlined in the application, and that the council report to the community, in its Annual Report each year until 2025-26, on the outcomes achieved.

 

 

Rates to rise with special variation

• Rate comparison for 2015/16. Cont

Rates in the Lachlan Shire look set to rise after Council began the community consultative process last week. Three community meetings were held in Lake Cargelligo, Condobolin and Tottenham. The Council outlined their application for a special rate variation, which will be put to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) by the end of this month. Council is seeking a 32.31 per cent rate rise over the next four years, which would see around $1 million returned to the bottom line. The rate increase is seen as an imperative part of Council’s bid to ‘stand alone’.

By Melissa Blewitt

Rates will rise in the Lachlan Shire if an application for a special variation is approved by the Independent Regulatory and Pricing Tribunal (IPART).

A proposed 32.31 per cent rate increase over four years will see Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) attempt to meet several financial, infrastructure and efficiency targets.

According to LSC General Manager Robert Hunt for LSC to become ‘Fit for the Future’ hard decisions had to be made.

“Following a thorough review of our operations, we reduced expenditure, cut staff, raised some user fees and charges, looked at increasing productivity, borrowed money, reviewed service levels and proposed a rate increase of 32.31 per cent to be staged over four years,” he said.

“LSC then met all the targets with the exception of scale and capacity which IPART stated was due to our population being under 10,000, however the Government believes some Councils do have scale and capacity and LSC is awaiting advice on this.”

LSC has twice previously engaged Micromex Pty Ltd to independently survey 250 community members on whether they would support a 33 per cent rate increase to enable LSC to be financially fit for the future and the majority of those surveyed indicated they would support a rate increase, Mr Hunt added.

“LSC is now making an application to IPART to approve a 32.31% increase over 4 years and part of that application process is to ensure the community is aware of the proposed rate increase and its financial impacts on residents,” he said.

“Of the 32.31 per cent increase, 9.31 per cent is represented by rate peg increases which would normally be payable over the four year period. LSC is basically seeking a five per cent per annum increase above the rate peg increase in each of the four years and this increase is to remain permanent.

“The usual rate peg increases will then resume in 2020/21.”

This means the cumulative impact on average residential rates at the end of the four year period will be $2.80 per week or $145 per annum.

For Non Urban Residential Rates it will be a cumulative increase of $3.54 per week or $184 per annum.

Businesses will be looking at $3.20 per week extra, or $166 per annum.

Farmland rates will increase $16.63 per week or $865 per annum.

Mr Hunt said the additional rate income would help LSC in maintaining council assets.

“LSC will allocate the additional rate income to increasing maintenance of council assets such as buildings and roads and renewal of infrastructure,” he said.

“This will ensure we attain and continue to meet the Government’s performance targets in relation to the level of maintenance and asset renewal.”

“Council also has a hardship policy should any ratepayer find it difficult to pay their rates and residents should contact Council’s Chief financial Officer Mr John Chapman for a confidential discussion” he added.

LSC met with interested community members at a series of public meetings at Lake Cargelligo, Condobolin and Tottenham.

 

Lachlan survives to fight another day

By Melissa Blewitt

Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) has survived the second phase of the State Government’s ‘Fit for the Future’ process.

They have been spared a forced amalgamation, for now.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole and NSW Premier Mike Baird announced that 152 NSW Councils will be cut back to 112 last Friday.

The number of regional councils will be reduced from 109 to 87.

Lachlan, Bland, Parkes and Forbes will stand alone, however, Orange, Blayney and Cabonne along with Bathurst and Oberon Councils were not so fortunate, all facing a merger process.

LSC now has the opportunity to revise and resubmit its Fit for the Future proposal to be re-assessed and declared fit in 2016.

Mayor of Lachlan Shire Council (LSC), Councillor John Medcalf has welcomed the announcement that LSC will remain as a stand-alone Council following the announcement by the NSW Premier, on the future of local government in NSW.

“The outcome, while very pleasing, does not mean LSC is out of the woods just yet as more work needs to be undertaken with regard to scale and capacity. LSC along with all other “unfit” councils will be reassessed again in September next year by the NSW Government following the introduction of Joint Organisations of Councils,” he said.

“However I am confident we have the staff to get us “Fit for The Future” in all aspects and with the continued support of the community we can remain an independent financially sustainable Council providing new and expanded services that meet the needs of the community.

“I would like to thank our Local State Member, Kevin Humphries for his support during this process and for listening to our concerns. Thank you also to members of the Shire community who strongly displayed their desire for LSC to remain as a stand-alone Council during this long and protracted reform process,” he said.

“Importantly, on behalf of fellow Councillors, I thank LSC staff who have worked tirelessly over many long hours to achieve this successful outcome,” Mr Medcalf concluded.

The merger proposals announced, will now go forward to the Chief Executive Officer of Local Government who will conduct public inquiries and then refer their recommendations on to the Boundaries Commission for final determination. Due to the boundary review process, the local government elections scheduled for September 2016, will now be pushed back to March 2017.

Committed to Lachlan-Staff forego $2 million in benefits to ‘Keep Lachlan Local’

Robert Hunt, General Manager of Lachlan Shire, is committed to keeping Lachlan Shire from amalgamation.

Lachlan shire Mayor, John Medcalf,  is standing up for the Lachlan Shire to ‘stand alone’ into the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Melissa Blewitt

Lachlan Shire Council staff have chosen to forego $2 million in benefits in a bid to keep Lachlan local.

Employees agreed to forego a significant benefit in their Enterprise Agreement, worth $2 million over eight years, in a final attempt to demonstrate to the State Government that the Lachlan Shire should stand alone.

In the recent Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) report LSC was deemed not “fit for the future” due to scale and capacity as it has a projected population of less than 10,000.

This is despite LSC meeting the various other financial, infrastructure and efficiency criteria.

The Report also questioned Council’s ability to provide cost effective services with such a small population.

“Council staff should be congratulated on making this decision to ensure LSC does provide cost effective services and to enable additional funding from these savings to be allocated to new infrastructure for the benefit of the community,” Mayor John Medcalf said.

“Staff have supported this reduction in working conditions knowing that in a recent independent community survey over 68 per cent of the community supported a 33 per cent rate rise over four years, commencing next financial year.

“This clearly demonstrates to the NSW Minister for Local Government the commitment and dedication that local people have to keeping “Lachlan Local” and not merging with another council area.

“LSC should not be compared to city or regional centres. We are a rural and remote Local Government area servicing a highly productive agricultural region and providing services to our communities above and beyond what is usually expected of a council, including maintenance of the largest road network of any council in NSW, a mobile long day care service to remote villages, medical centre facilities, a retirement village/nursing home, indoor sports centre and home and community care services.

“Council provides these services as this is what our locals require to ensure their needs, or the needs of their family, are met.”

Council will formulate a response to the IPART report findings and submit that response to the Office of Local Government on Wednesday, 18 November. LSC expects a final decision from the NSW State Government before Christmas.

Amalgamation an “insult” to Lachlan Shire

Forcing Lachlan Shire Council to amalgamate is an “insult” according to State Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries.

• State Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries told the Argus, a forced amalgamation would be an “insult” to Lachlan Shire Council. He is pictured here with LSC Deputy Mayor Des Manwaring on a visit to Condobolin earlier this year. More on the KEEP LACHLAN LOCAL campaign on page 7.

By Melissa Blewitt

Forcing Lachlan Shire Council to amalgamate is an “insult” according to State Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries.

“Forcing Lachlan Shire Council based on this (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal‘s Fit for the Future) report is an absolute insult to them,” he said.

“Out of all the councils in my electorate, Lachlan is one of the best. Lachlan Shire Council is doing a good job, and they have the right to fight for their community.

“Lachlan Shire does not support amalgamation and neither do I. I will not be supporting any forced amalgamation within my electorate.

“Lachlan Shire Council wants to stand alone and I fully support that decision. I will fight for Lachlan’s right to stand alone.

“It’s a case of why bother, if no economic case has been made for amalgamations and certainly no advantages of the decision explained to communities.

“My position is that I support Lachlan Shire and I will not support any forced amalgamations, and I will be taking my concerns to the Minster for Local Government Paul Toole during the next two sitting weeks of Parliament.”

Mr Humphries said he understood Barwon had “interests that were too broad” and many councils in his electorate would not benefit from amalgamations.

“We need to keep local interests alive and councils working together can achieve great outcomes for their communities.”

Mr Humphries added he felt the emphasis should be more on supporting and empowering Joint Organisations (JO’s).

“I think this whole process has gone in the wrong direction. There should be more emphasis on creating a stronger Regional Organisation of Councils such as Central NSW Councils (CENTROC), which Lachlan is a part of,” he said.

“I think this [the IPART assessments] is the wrong path and we need to look at giving local councils a bigger role in a JO, so they can act as a direct conduit to the State Government.

“This is not to say that those who believe amalgamating will bring benefits, should not go ahead.

“All councils can look at strategic planning and working more efficiently, and I do support that.”

Mr Humphries said he will not be in Condobolin until December, but he has made his feelings clear to both Lachlan Shire Mayor John Medcalf and Deputy Mayor Des Manwaring.

“I spoke to John [Mayor Medcalf] two weeks ago and I made by position clear to him. I do not support forced amalgamations,” he said. “He knows how I feel and I will support Lachlan’s right to fight this decision.”

Locals Support Lachlan Shire

 

The preliminary results from the independent survey taken late last week have been received and it shows 68 per cent of people surveyed do not want to merge with Parkes Shire Council.

The Argus is urging all residents to write to their local member and say resounding NO to almalgamations. Fill in the form on the front page and return it to the Argus by Wed 11th November.

By Melissa Blewitt

The preliminary results from the independent survey taken late last week have been received and it shows 68 per cent of people surveyed do not want to merge with Parkes Shire Council.

This is despite a proposed 34 per cent rate increase over four years from next year, the $5 million State Government incentive for the new entity to build infrastructure and the $5 million from the State Government to cover merger costs. The survey of 254 households has a plus or minus 6 per cent error factor which means had we surveyed every resident the result would have been in the range of 62 per cent – 74 per cent against any merger.

Take the time to fill out the Argus survey form (BELOW) and return it to the office by 12 noon on Wednesday, 11 November.

“This result provides solid support for Lachlan Shire to remain independent and the views of the community will be conveyed to the State Government in Council’s submission which is due by the 18th November,” Council’s General Manager Robert Hunt said.

The Mayors and General Managers of the Mid Lachlan Alliance (Forbes, Weddin, Lachlan and Parkes Shire Councils) met to discuss the recently released IPART Report regarding the Fit for the Future Proposals last Tuesday.

The consensus of the Mid Lachlan Alliance was that the time available before the November 18 deadline for responses will be used to seek feedback from their communities.

Before the IPART Report was released, all four Councils were in a position where their communities wanted to stand alone in the future.

All Councils agreed that the views of their communities are very important and this survey will give community members the chance to present their feedback regarding standing alone or merging with another Council.

Editors Opinion

Now is the time to stand up for Lachlan standing alone.

We have to do everything in our power to stop forced amalgamations.

WE have to say NO, and call out the State Government on their shortsighted strategy.

Take the time to fill out the Argus, The Lachlander or any survey form that helps show support for Lachlan Shire Council to stand alone.

The Lachlander survey form needs to be returned to PO Box 154, Condobolin, 2877 or placed in the ‘Have your Say’ containers at The Lachlander office or the Condobolin Newsagency in Bathurst Street by 12 noon on Monday, 9 November.The Condobolin Argus survey form needs to be returned to the Argus office at 93 Bathurst Street, by 12 noon on Wednesday, 11 November.

This is a vital part of helping to keep Lachlan Local.  MB

Shire Almalgamation – Editors Opinion

If there is one thing that the IPART assessment proved, it’s that it’s all about the numbers. We are not a community. We are 6,700 now, and by 2031 we will be just 5,500. That’s the only number the NSW State Government cares about. And because that number is not judged as high or important enough, Lachlan Shire is in danger of becoming obsolete.
Now I don’t profess to always support Lachlan Shire Council, or its decisions on a regular basis. I am not always a fan of council, but our community matters to me. And I know one thing is for sure. If we are forcibly amalgamated with Parkes, then you can say goodbye to local representation and the upkeep of roads and infrastructure. We will be forgotten as quickly as they close the Lachlan Shire office doors.
Lachlan currently looks after 4,500 kilometres of Shire roads. Who will care if they are sitting in an office in Parkes? No one, that’s who. Who will travel the distance to check on a water supply at Lake Cargelligo or Tullibigeal? That’s over two hours out of their day. Now why is Parkes the be all and end all for Lachlan? Sure it has a bigger population, but did not satisfy one crucial area of the IPART assessments – efficiency. Now how does that work?
You’re not efficient but you’re fit because of your projected population growth? Let’s get real. Parkes is riding on the back of mining right now, but when operations inevitably wind down they will be looking at more than a gigantic hole underground, they will be looking at a gigantic hole in their population and economy. IPART has not mentioned how they will handle that. However Lachlan has been judged unfit on a projected falling population.
The State Government says amalgamations will save money, but then offers incentives under the Stronger Communities Fund for up to $15 million to invest in community infrastructure. I’m going to call if for what it is – absolute bread sticks (read between the lines on that one). If they have the money to literally throw ‘incentives’ away to amalgamating councils, why can’t they put that money into local government so they can provide better services and infrastructure? That might just make too much sense.
It seems funny to me (in a humourous way) that the Local Government Minister Paul Toole (Bathurst) and National Leader Troy Grant’s (Dubbo) local council areas are deemed ‘fit’. Just make everything bigger, and let even more services and representation slide away.
That brings me to our National Party representatives. Now where are they in this argument?
Not out fighting for our local councils, simply hiding behind one line responses and generic press releases. Come on. You were elected to represent our electorate. Get out here and explain why this is so good for us. Come to a community meeting and look us all in the eye, and tell us all why we need massive, amalgamated councils. We voted for you in good conscience, so that you would stand up for us and the issues that are important to this town. If you don’t fight for us, I think you don’t deserve our vote. You certainly won’t be getting mine at the next election, if you don’t support rural communities. I think you have lost sight of what true community means. I think you need to talk to your constituents.
Love them or loathe them, Lachlan Shire Council has earned the right to represent its community at a local level. They are committed to the Shire and steering the organisation in a better direction. I implore you all, to write a letter to your state and federal member. Tell them you don’t agree. If you think nothing gets done now, wait till Lachlan is part of a 21,000 plus mega council area.
People power can change this. Write a letter or start a petition. We may have to suck it up and accept some tough decisions, if it means we get to keep Lachlan local then so be it. If you don’t care, then do nothing. But do that at your own risk.
Have the courage to tell the state government what you think. Have the courage to tell the state government this is wrong. Have the courage to say NO to forced amalgamations.
Melissa Blewitt

Danger Zone

Lachlan Shire Council is in danger of being merged with a larger entity, after it was deemed unfit to stand alone by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future assessments.

: IPART’s map of part of the state, showing ‘fit’ councils in green and ‘unfit’ councils in orange. The blue would be considered ‘fit’ with a merger process. More on IPART’s decision plus an editorial on page 4. Cont

By Melissa Blewitt

 

Lachlan Shire Council is in danger of being merged with a larger entity, after it was deemed unfit to stand alone by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future assessments.

The report, released by the State Government last Tuesday, found Lachlan Shire “unfit” due to a forecast declining population over the next 20 years.

Lachlan Shire Council’s Fit for the Future proposal was one of 87 out of 139 proposals assessed to be unfit, with only three of 12 councils in the central west found fit to stand alone.

IPART has suggested a merger with Parkes would be the most beneficial course of action, but Lachlan Shire Council’s preference is to remain a stand alone Council within a Joint Organisation (JO).

Parkes failed to satisfy one crucial criterion – efficiency – but was still deemed “fit” by the IPART report.

Lachlan failed to meet the scale and capacity criteria (population under 10,000), but satisfied the financial criteria overall including sustainability, infrastructure and service management.

Lachlan’s population stands at 6,700 and is predicted by the NSW Department of Planning to fall to 5,500 by 2031. If merged with Parkes, the new entity would have a projected population of 21,000 by 2031.

According to General Manager Robert Hunt, Council is committed to standing alone.

“Lachlan Shire only fails to meet one criterion and that is scale and capacity. Councils had not been told beforehand that there was a minimum population of 10,000 which had to be met and that has been very disappointing after all the work that went into the submission,” he said.

Lachlan’s TCorp Financial Sustainability Rating (FSR) was assessed as moderate and they were given a negative outlook.

“This [the FSR] was completed a few years ago and the negative outlook is based on projections – we have since made many changes and we will be sustainable after the rate increase next year and we will have a positive outlook based on this.”

Mr Hunt added that after a discussion with Parkes General Manager, Kent Boyd, both Councils preferred to stand alone however, further meetings with neighbouring councils will be held.

In the meantime an independent telephone survey of residents will also be undertaken by Micromex Pty Ltd to see if ratepayers want to take the $15m incentive on offer to the merged entity by the State Government or remain an independent Council.

Council has until 18 November to respond to the findings.

 

 

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