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Local councils have been using brochures to justify increases in rates since the Federal Government’s carbon tax policy commenced on July 1.

In a meeting on June 19, Waverley Council proposed to increase its rates by 13.5 per cent for 2012-13. Afterwards, Council released brochures informing residents on the rate changes and how the extra rates would be spent.

The brochures contained a survey with “yes” or “no” responses on questions about rate rises. However, most questions in the survey were unbalanced and skewed to give Council positive responses. For example,
Council asked its residents: “Is it important to achieve the vision and targets of the community’s 12 year plan?” Unsurprisingly, 95 per cent of respondents answered “yes” to this question.

Council has also spread the word through precinct meetings, media releases and with exhibitions held in each of its wards.

Waverley Council Deputy Mayor, Kerryn Sloan said rate increases are justified because of greater demand for its services, along with the fact that Council has some of the lowest rates in NSW. “Because of the ageing population and a high number of apartments within the council
area, we have some of the lowest rates in NSW,” she said.

“Also, because of rate-pegging, we are very limited in the way in which we can increase those rates.”

Ms Sloan also said the effects of the carbon tax are still unknown and that it is too early to make a clear judgment.

“I don’t think anybody really knows what the true impact of the carbon tax will be,” she said.

In the last financial year, the residential Council rate in Waverley was at $678.50, lower than the NSW average of $786. However, the residential council rate in Woollahra was higher than the NSW average,
at $940.92.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) approved a request from Woollahra Council to increase its rates by 10.41 per cent in June 2011. That has now been adjusted by 0.4 per cent to 10.81 per
cent due to the carbon tax.

A spokeswoman for Woollahra Council said although the 0.4 per cent
increase will provide $123,000 in rates, it would still leave Council with a shortfall of $18,000.

“We are hopeful that when IPART reviews the impact of costs generally on local government next year, that adjustments will be made to reflect the real costs of the carbon tax on … local communities,” she said.

Gaby Johnston, from the Darling Point Society resident group, said the carbon tax is unreasonable for the average resident and is a political move with no community benefit. “Within the next release of council rates you’ll see the real impact of the carbon tax,” Ms Johnston said. “With rents and electricity going up, renters are also going to feel the pinch, not just owners.

“Every service provided by local councils are going to increase in price due to the carbon tax.”