Geoff Helisma Clarence Valley Council (CVC) last week began its special rates variation consultation, asking if the valley’s people support and increase in rates. The council is proposing to implement an eight per cent increase for each of three years, from 2018/19 to 2020/21, which amounts to a cumulative increase of 25.97 per cent that will remain permanently in the council’s rates base. By now people in the valley should have received their information packs containing a letter, pamphlet and survey card. The council’s general manager Ashley Lindsay said (in a media release) that the community’s responses to the provided information will inform the CVC’s application to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) “to increase rates above the State Government’s pegged limit”. “It should go to every resident and business in the Clarence Valley local government area,” he said. “We encourage people to have their say about the proposal by returning the survey form or by making a written submission via email to Council@clarence.nsw.gov.au, or by writing to Locked Bag 23, Grafton, 2460. “But before they put pen to paper we strongly encourage them to read the background information and, if they have questions, to give council a call. “We need people to understand what the application is about and what measures council has undertaken to cut costs before replying.” Meanwhile, acting corporate and governance director Kristian Enevoldson said that every household, as opposed to every ratepayer, was included in the Australia Post-delivered mail-out because of wording on the IPART’s special rate variation webpage, which states under the heading, How special variations are assessed: “IPART requires councils to actively engage residents in discussions about the proposed increase above the rate peg. “Councils can do this with public hearings and other community engagement tools that suit their population. “IPART will consider how effective each council’s community inclusion has been before determining its application to increase charges above the set rate. “Councils need to show IPART there is: community awareness of their plans, a demonstrated need for higher increases to charges, a reasonable impact on ratepayers, a sustainable financing strategy, and a history of well-documented council productivity improvements.” Mr Enevoldson said the proposal, if approved, would “affect the whole community [not just ratepayers] because it’s connected with the future of valley and its sustainability”. The Independent asked if the information packs have been posted to ratepayers who live outside of the valley. Mr Enevoldson said they had not; however, he said “we will have a look at that, certainly”. Submissions to CVC close at 4pm on November 3. The IPART’s website also accepts submissions directly from the public on SRV proposals. “In addition to council’s evidence, we will assess any other information we consider relevant, including letters from ratepayers,” the website states.