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SRV consultation set to begin in September

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) will begin its special rate variation (SRV) community consultation in September, with a few variations to its integrated planning and reporting (IPR) documents adopted in June. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has advised CVC that it must amend its IPR documents so that all “references to a 2% assumed rate peg from 2018/19 be changed to a 2.5% assumed rate peg.” Consultations with the community in April this year, including a “possible” SRV application, were premised on an assumed two per cent rate peg. At the June council meeting, councillors adopted the following among its resolutions: “Apply to IPART for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) of 8% per year for three years (including an estimated rate peg of 2%) commencing 2018/19 to 2020/21, with the cumulative increase of 25.97% to be retained permanently in Council’s rate base”. The IPART challenged this resolution because it “states that Council will apply to IPART for an SRV in advance of full community consultation on the SRV occurring”. Councillors will decide whether or not to apply for a SRV at its December meeting. The IPART is expected to announce its rate peg percentage rise for the 2018/19 year in late November 2017. The council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, said that the two per cent assumed rate peg used during its IPR consultation was an average of the IPART-set rate pegs over the past four years. “The bottom line is we need to upgrade our modelling to reflect the guidelines issued at 2.5 per cent,” he said. “We were always going to have another consultation”, in addition to the one carried out in conjunction with the IPR documents earlier this year. He said that it was unlikely that a telephone survey completed in late in 2016 for a subsequently rescinded nine per cent SRV, which was mooted to start on July 1, 2017, would have to be repeated. “The key thing is it is very important for the organisation to obtain the approval for the SRV,” he said. “The requirement by the state government to be ‘fit for the future’ really hinges on council’s ability to achieve an operating surplus by 2021. “And the key [objective] is a combination of us (CVC) meeting the efficiency improvements we said we would; but also we need the increased revenue to give us the flexibility to start increasing our infrastructure renewals, reducing the backlog and maximising the life of the assets we have to maintain.” When the consultation begins in September, CVC has proposed to implement the following communication methods: • Deploy and promote an online rates calculator so ratepayers can determine what impact the proposed SRV would have on their property; • Produce and distribute a pamphlet, survey and reply paid envelope to all residents of the Clarence Valley. This will be advertised as available on Council’s website and in hard copy at Council’s offices and libraries; • Utilise local newspapers through media releases and paid advertising; • Information will be displayed at council offices and the Grafton, Maclean and Yamba libraries; • Radio advertising and regular talkback with the General Manager initially directing listeners to websites, with further information on the engagement plan activities as they occur; • Council’s Facebook page to be used to generate discussion and feedback; • Key messages and frequently asked questions (FAQs) available on council’s website, and are included in displays and available in hard copy; • And, a dedicated web page utilising Engagement HQ (Bang the Table) providing background material, a downloadable version of the pamphlet, survey, FAQs and link to the rates calculator.