Clarence Valley Council has resolved to ask Local Government NSW to lobby the Baird Government on their behalf for an increase in the amount of pensioners concessions on ordinary rates, waste disposal charges, water and sewerage charges and, “to lobby the Federal Government to increase their subsidy (currently 5% for the pension rebate) to be indexed each year in accordance with IPART’s Local Government Cost Index” (Clarence Valley Council, minutes, 24.11.15).
A fine thing! Except…..
The Federal Government withdrew its financial support for pensioner concessions in 2014: “Under the National Partnership Agreement on Certain Concessions for Pensioner Concession Card and Seniors Card Holders, the Commonwealth provides financial assistance to the states and territories for the provision of these concessions to PCC holders. The most recent Agreement commenced in January 2013 and is set to expire on 30 June 2016. The Commonwealth intends to terminate this agreement from 1 July 2014, and will no longer provide financial assistance to the states and territories for the provision of concessions, providing savings of $1.3 billion over four years” (Australian Parliamentary Library, Budget Review 2014-15 Index).
This dug an est. annual $107 million black hole in the NSW concession scheme which the Baird Government absorbed in its 2014-15 budget (NSW Government media statement, 17 June 2014). However, there is no guarantee that state government will continue to meet the shortfall and the funding situation does not leave room to easily increase these local government concessions.
I rather suspect that Council’s motion is just for show – proffering nebulous and fleeting hope to ratepayers in an attempt to minimise public reaction to the potential impact its proposed rate rises will have on pensioner home owners and the inevitable flow-on effect for many pensioner renters.