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Bitter cup to swallow

Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) claim in its Roads to Sustainability brochure last year, which stated its application for an eight per cent special rate variation for five consecutive years equated to the cost of cup of coffee each fortnight, has proved to be a significant benchmark … for all of the wrong reasons.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) decision to not approve the council’s SRV application highlights the council’s failure to properly present its case to the public.
Referring to the brochure outlining the CVC’s case for the SRV, the IPART noted that it had “focused on the proposed weekly and annual dollar increase in 2016-17 rates and presented the proposed rate increases as a small part of the combined charges”.
“This,” the report states, “had the effect of minimising the impact of the rate increase, and did not adequately express the multi-year or cumulative nature of the proposed rate rise in either dollar or percentage terms for the five years of proposed rate increases.
“Similarly, in [CVC] press releases, although the proposed rate increase was described as ‘8% a year (inclusive of the rate-pegged limit)’, the extra cost for average ratepayers was described as ‘under $2.50 a week’.”
The IPART found that CVC did not “clearly demonstrate the financial impact of increases in minimum rates” during the consultation process, or include “minimum amounts … in the rates notice brochure, or in the tables showing 2016-17 rates presented at the community forums”.
The IPART found that the council’s IP&R (Integrated Planning and Reporting) documents and SRV application did not clearly “demonstrate the extent of the need for the special variation”.
“The council’s ‘Base Case’, in its adopted IP&R documents, understates the available revenue and therefore overstates the financial impact of … the special variation,” the IPART report states.
The IPART noted that “the council reviewed its IP&R documents in consultation with the community [and] clearly explained the purpose of the proposed special variation and provided reasonable opportunities for community feedback”.

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