NSW council wants 15 per cent rate rise

·2-min read

Thousands of community members in NSW's Central Coast have spoken out about their council's plan to raise rates to address its disastrous financial position.

The debt-stricken Central Coast Council wants to up rates by 15 per cent in the next financial year - 13 per cent more than the maximum increase generally allowed.

The troubled council is one of eight to apply to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to increase their rates above the 2021/22 rate peg.

Tribunal member Deborah Cope said some of the proposed increases had already caused strong community reaction.

More than 3850 submissions have been made about the Central Coast Council's application. Some 175 Liverpool Plains Shire Council residents have also made submissions.

The tribunal has set next year's rate peg - the maximum amount councils can increase rates - at two per cent.

The Central Coast Council has more than half a billion dollars in debt and is forecast to lose about $115 million this financial year, after a $89 million loss in 2019/20.

It wants to increase rates to try to claw back some of that money, in addition to shedding staff, selling assets and other measures.

Councillors were suspended and an administrator appointed in October after the council announced it was in a "serious financial situation" and was facing an "immediate and serious liquidity" issue.

The administrator's initial finding is that the council unlawfully used restricted funds and failed to understand or practise the basics of sound financial management. There was no evidence of theft or corruption.

The council's chief executive was fired in November.

The council has done its own consultation on the rate rise proposal, with 72 per cent of people saying they do not support the increase.

They survey indicated ratepayers felt they should not shoulder the burden of council's mistakes.

The council was formed in 2016 as an amalgamation of the old Wyong Shire Council and Gosford City Council. It's the seven-largest council in the country and the fourth-largest in NSW.

The other councils to apply for a special variation are the City of Canterbury-Bankstown, Georges River, Armidale Regional, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional, Federation, Liverpool Plains Shire and Tweed Shire.

The Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council wants to increase its rates by 53.5 per cent over four years. The council says it needs to do so to maintain service levels, fund asset renewals and improve financial sustainability.

To get a variation councils need to show they need more revenue, consult with the community, and assess the impact on affected ratepayers.

Community members have until March 7 to make submissions to the tribunal.

The tribunal says it will determine applications by mid-May.