Member for Geraldton Ian Blayney has his say on Geraldton rates

Gavin BoxGeraldton Guardian
City of Greater Geraldton council office.
Camera IconCity of Greater Geraldton council office. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney agrees with the city’s mayor the current formula for setting council rates is hurting some ratepayers but has stopped short of endorsing his call to change to a land-value based system.

Mr Blayney said while the idea had merit, he believed a committee should examine the issue. The State Government is looking at the rates system as part of a review of the Local Government Act.

The Guardian has reported on Mayor Shane Van Styn wants the State Government to change the Act to give councils power to use the land value of a residential property, instead of rental value, in the formula for deciding rates.

Currently, residential rates are calculated by multiplying a property’s gross rental value — or the estimated dollar amount it could raise in rent per year — by a council-set rate in the dollar.

Mr Van Styn said there is too much variance in valuations across Geraldton suburbs and properties, making some ratepayers unfairly shoulder more of the rates burden.

If it was changed to an unimproved value system, he argues it would reduce such rates shock.

Mr Blayney said it was “probably not a bad idea”.

“When economic times are tough, councils still need revenues but it hurts when your rates go up,” he said.

“If it (a land-based rating model) would work it might be the path to go down. The minister’s been making similar noises.

“It is always the situation that occurs. This year it’s Strathalbyn and Woorree where there have been substantial increases and other areas have dropped.

“This will keep rolling on, what people see as an anomaly in their rates.”

Mr Blayney suggested that a parliamentary or select committee critically review different rating systems, but he is wary of granting councils too much freedom on rates. “It does need to be an external formula,” he said. “Otherwise you can get a situation where a Labor-dominated council will hit better-off areas and vice versa.”

“Mrs Thatcher played around in that space with the poll tax and it didn’t work well for her.”

Mr Blayney agreed the time was right for a “good hard look at rates”, but was mindful of managing community expectations.

“You can only cut a sausage so many ways,” he said.

“Everyone can’t pay less rates while at the same time the council gets more money.”

Agricultural Region MLC Laurie Graham declined to comment on the mayor’s proposal, citing a conflict of interest because he owned rural-residential land that could be adversely affected by such a plan.

To have your say on the review into the Local Government Act, email actreview@dlgsc.wa.gov.au and ask to be put on the list to receive an alert for the public comment period, expected to happen this month.

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