Councillors think pensioners should get higher rate rebate

Crs Kevin Schreiber and Brendan Christie with local resident, Bruce Cox, look at recent rate notices.
Crs Kevin Schreiber and Brendan Christie with local resident, Bruce Cox, look at recent rate notices.

Liberal councillors Brendan Christie and Kevin Schreiber are calling for an increase in the rates rebate given to pensioners.

Cr Christie is moving a notice of motion at next Tuesday's meeting asking for a report on the potential cost involved.

He said the pensioner rebate had remained fixed at $250 for many years while rates had significantly increased.

"There has been no increase [in the rebate] since 1993," Cr Christie said.

"That's 26 years of increased council rates but no increase to the rebate."

He is asking council staff to investigate a scheme which has been introduced by Blacktown council, which has both the mandatory $250 rebate (funded 45 per cent by council and 55 per cent by the state government) plus a voluntary component.

This provides an additional rebate to a maximum of $200 for eligible pensioner residents who have been ratepayers in the council area for five full financial years. It is funded 100 per cent by the council and is deducted from the resident's domestic waste and rates levy.

Cr Christie said residents had lobbied him to act.

"I've been stopped on the street, I've had a couple of phone calls from pensioners and at a street stall I did in Mt Riverview someone did a u-ey to come back and talk to me about the pensioner rebate," he said.

Cr Schreiber added: "We put up rates 40 per cent but we never made any allowance for the pensioners to receive extra."

He said the cost of living, particularly high electricity prices, meant many pensioners were "doing it very tough".

Resident Bruce Cox said he had heard "terrible stories" about people cutting down on food or unable to heat their homes.

"The Salvos and the Red Cross, they are being inundated with requests for help."

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, said he supported Cr Christie's suggestion but the state government would have to step in because council could not afford it.

"I will support this measure with some suggestions to ensure its intention is met," he said. "Pensioners do it tough. The pension is too low and the federal government should fix that."

But he pointed out that the state government has a major role in setting rates and funds 55 per cent of the pensioner rebate, with council contributing 45 per cent from ratepayer funds.

"If we increased the amount that council rebates it would result in an increase to all ratepayers unless the state government helps fund it.

"I will therefore support this on the basis that extra state funding is received so that we don't inadvertently see rates rise for everyone else."