Taking stock of rates

Clr Robert Stock outside council chambers.

Clr Robert Stock outside council chambers.

The lone voice, the only councillor who voted against presenting three rate-rise options to the community, believes wages and staff levels must be looked at as council struggles to work within its budget.

Robert Stock, independent Ward 1 councillor, told the Gazette staff costs made up a very significant proportion of the budget and projected pay rises were well above the average for public sector workers.

"Wages is the big elephant in the room," he said. Council papers show that employee costs of $43.4 million represented 44 per cent of expenditure in the last financial year's budget.

And Mr Stock pointed out that council's long-term financial plan projects annual pay increases of 4.2 per cent for the next decade.

This compares with Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that showed public sector pay rates rose by just 2.9 per cent in the year to March 2014.

Mr Stock said the issue had to be addressed.

"The average ratepayer is going to be getting a pay rise of around 2 per cent but is being asked to pay more in rates so council workers can receive rises of 4.2 per cent. And that's not fair," he said.

"We are projecting to pay them more and more and more," Mr Stock said. "They will consume a large percentage of the rate rise."

While he was not advocating pay cuts, he questioned why the increase had to be so large.

Mr Stock voted against the three-part option package to be sent to residents because he believed it should have included other options.

"It only provided the 'yes' case but what about the 'no' case?"

Mr Stock also questioned the level of staffing at council, although he was anxious not to pinpoint any particular role or area.

"I don't want to refer to specific positions but there are jobs there that other councils wouldn't be having." He also believed there were "other efficiencies" which could be introduced "so council could avoid rate rises".

Reaction to the three-option plan on the Gazette's Facebook page has been largely negative, with complaints that rates were already too high. Some echoed Mr Stock's call for more efficiency in the way council spends its funds. A few expressed pleasant surprise to be offered the opportunity to give feedback to council but others thought printing the information pamphlets and distributing them was itself a waste of money.

Council's 10-year resourcing strategy and options for possible variations to rates are now on public display until September 15.

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