Local Government Minister John Castrilli has indicated in State Parliament that he will not intervene to overturn the City of Greater Geraldton’s controversial rates decision.
Responding to a grievance address from Member for Geraldton Ian Blayney, Mr Castrilli said he respected the lawful decisions of the elected council.
“The elected members who made this decision are accountable to the electors of the City of Greater Geraldton, and that is when they will be judged,” he said.
Mr Castrilli repeated his view that the 2012-13 rates increases were unacceptably high and would have a direct impact on the Geraldton community, especially on those who could least afford it.
“I would expect that the City of Greater Geraldton would have gained some important experiences and appreciation after this episode of the impacts of its decision on its ratepayers and the community in general,” he said.
The Minister said many Geraldton people believed their rate increasses would be less than seven per cent, but the City had failed to make it clear to the community the impact of the Landgate revaluation on rates.
“That should have been communicated to the community, and that is something the City of Greater Geraldton could have done, and should have done, better,” he said.
In his grievance address, Mr Blayney said he had been told that people involved in local government across WA for more than 30 years had never seen a rate increase of the magnitude adopted by the city council.
Mr Blayney said the City claimed that the payment of more than 57 per cent of the rates showed that ratepayers had agreed to the increase.
“In reality, they have paid their rates because they are decent law-abiding people and are probably afraid not to,” he said.
Mr Blayney asked the Minister to intervene.
“Perhaps the council can be ordered to rebate some rates back to ratepayers,” he said.
“I would also like the Department of Local Government to consider a cap on the amount by which the council can increase its rates.
“I am worried about the financial path the council is heading down, and I ask the Minister to consider the content of this grievance and review the council’s decisions on rates and its expenditures.”