Friday, 21 November 2008

Central Hawke's Bay District Council Rates Review

Yesterday I received a letter from my local council advising me of a working party which was supposed to consider how rates could be spread equitably across the district. The letter included a sample rates invoice showing the effect of the proposed changes. According to my sample rates invoice my rates are going to go up by over 20%.

What is fair and equitable about increasing my rates by such a huge amount when I have no method of recovery? The majority of residents in this district cannot claim back part or all of their rates as a business expense or claim back the GST portion of their rates whereas businesses, including farms, can.

This change is likely to adversely affect those on a low income. What is fair and equitable about increasing the burden on the elderly and others on fixed low incomes?

How can I even decide if the changes are fair and equitable when I have nothing to compare them to? Council should provide ratepayers with a selection of rates samples from both rural and urban areas. We should be given at least two years of rates (2008/09 and 2009/10) along with an explanation of any increases/decreases so we can make a fair comparison.

One of the recommendations by the 2007 Government inquiry into Local Government Rates recommended "...that the power to set differential rates and to use Universal Annual General Charges (UAGC) should be removed in the interests of transparency and equity". I note that Council has elected to retain a UAGC. As the aim of the rating review is to spread rates equitably across the district I fail to understand why the UAGC has been retained. Does our Council want to be transparent and equitable or does it merely want to appear as though it is being equitable?

I don't think Council is doing a particularly good job of consultation on this issue and I think the rating review needs to be reviewed. I urge Council to revisit both the review and consultation and provide its ratepayers with some meaningful information before making any final decision.

As it stands I am totally against the change.