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Councillor challenges mayor’s SRV statements

Councillor Karen Toms will challenge public statements made by Clarence Valley’s mayor, Richie Williamson, regarding IPART’s decision to grant Clarence Valley Council (CVC) a one-year-only special rate (SRV) increase of 6.5 percent, instead of 6.5 per cent for each of the next five years. Councillor Toms’ motion of notice (NOM), which was forwarded to “all senior staff and councillors” on Friday June 3, recommends that: “Council receive and adopt the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) Local Government’s Determination of Clarence Valley Council’s application for a special rate variation for 2016-17”; …, and “declare that the other reasons attributed to the Mayor Cr Williamson are not claims adopted or endorsed by Clarence Valley Council”. “Unfortunately,” Cr Toms said, she had “not given enough notice to the general manager” to table the NOM at the June 14 Works, Civil and Corporate Committee meeting. The council’s code of meeting practice requires seven working days’ notice, however, the Queen’s Birthday holiday on Monday June 13 means that Cr Tom’s NOM only gave six working days’ notice. “The general manager has accepted the NOM for the July works civil and corporate meeting on July 12,” she said. The meeting code states that the full seven days is required, “except in circumstances of great urgency or in the case of rescission motions”. Councillor Toms writes in her NOM: “Mayor Williamson is quoted as saying in the Daily Examiner: “… while the council had consulted widely when it was proposing an 8 per cent increase for five consecutive years, IPART had said it did not consult the community enough once the proposed increase was changed to 6.5 per cent. “Additionally, the Mayor is interviewed on NBN TV and made the following claims: ‘…We consulted with our community on an 8 per cent increase. Council resolved to apply for a six and a half percent increase and IPART have said to us, well you haven’t consulted on the six and a half percent; which we accept.’ “These statements by the Mayor are considerably at odds with the determination IPART published, in particular at odds with 2 criteria provided by IPART as reasons for refusal.” The criteria state that CVC “did not demonstrate the need for, and financial impact of, the proposed rate increase in its Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) documents; and, the council did not adequately make the community aware of the extent of the rate increase, as the cumulative impacts were not communicated effectively.” Citing a letter written to Clarence Forum’s convenor John Hagger, by IPART’s principal analyst, Tony Camenzuli, Cr Toms writes that Mr Camenzuli “specifically” refutes the “reason for refusal stated by Mayor Williamson”. “The statements by the Mayor have the effect of reducing the importance of the IPART determination and serve to mislead the public as to the clear intent of the IPART criteria,” she writes. “Council has not ‘accepted’ or adopted in any way the reason given by Mayor Williamson as the IPART reason for refusal. In saying that ‘which we (Council) accept’, Mayor Williamson creates a false impression of the council response to the determination, noting that Council has adopted, nothing in response to the determination.” Mr Camenzuli’s letter states: “IPART’s report does refer to the council’s decision to reduce the size of the special variation from 8% pa (47% cumulative) each year over five years, to 6.5% pa (37% cumulative) over five years (pages 5, 16). “This decision by the council was noted as background information. “The report does not make reference to that decision by the council as a reason for the council’s special variation application not being approved in full.”