Rate rise to hurt pensioners

Dear Ed, I read with interest Geoff Helisma’s article (May 24) on the Special Rates Variation (SRV) proposed by Clarence Valley Council (CVC). The report was very informative, easy to follow with enough information to lead me to give the issue a bit more thought than I had previously. I noted that councillors are encouraging input from ratepayers. Having a couple of areas of concern about the increase and its financial impact I decided to send a submission to each councillor and the acting GM. A copy of the submission [edited for length] follows. Dear Councillor, I believe you are seeking feedback from residents on the SRV being considered by Council. I am a ratepayer in Yamba and I offer these comments along with a couple of queries. I’m disappointed that the councillors who were elected on a platform of no SRV have found it necessary to walk away from that commitment. A big call. The council campaign to secure ratepayers’ endorsement of a SRV has not gone well with many people and may well be counter-productive in winning the hearts and minds of ratepayers. To suggest that ratepayers should formulate a Plan B to avoid the application for a SRV and then be prepared to accept responsibility if the books don’t balance and the nasties are implemented is a novel approach to the issue if nothing else. There are plenty of people paid to run the council and at the end of the day the council will do what they want. The tactics of talking about job losses, withdrawal of services etcetera is not helpful. My first query is whether councillors have sought the opinion of seniors’ groups to gauge the impact of a rate rise of this order. My second question is whether the changes to the age pension taper rates which took effect on January 1 this year were taken in to consideration when deciding to support the application. These changes effectively moved many full pensioners on to a part pension with a considerable reduction in their pension. At the same time part pensioners had their pensions reduced, once again with a substantial reduction in their payment. I’m talking many thousands of dollars in these examples. I recommend a visit to the web and search “age pension changes” to see the before and after monetary effect of the taper rate changes. The table will show that the reductions in pensions, depending on a person’s assets, ranged from $1814 to $14,122 a year. Regards, Ron Mitchell