Ararat Rural City Council votes to adopt 2017-18 rating strategy with last year's differential rates

ARARAT Rural City councillors have voted to adopt a rating strategy that retains differential rates.

The motion to adopt an amended rating strategy in line with recommendations from the Victorian Local Government Minister was carried without opposition on Tuesday night.

Ararat Rural City Council had previously proposed to abolish all differential rates, increasing municipal costs for farmers but offering a discount for residential, industrial and commercial properties. 

The 201718 Rating Strategy includes a 2 per cent rates rise, differential rates of 100 per cent for general properties, 160 per cent for commercial properties, 130 per cent for industrial properties, 55 per cent for farm properties and a municipal charge of $92 per rateable assessment ($90 per rateable assessment in 2016/17). 

The Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins had formed a commission of inquiry in investigate what she called an ‘extreme’ proposal.

The inquiry handed down its report last week, which called on councillors to revert to last year’s rating strategy.

Councillors had previously voted to lay the motion to adopt their previous rating strategy on the table until the inquiry handed down its report.

Cr Glenda McLean had moved an amendment to establish and independent broad-based anti-corruption commission for Ararat.

She said she had joined council to improve transparency around council expenditure

“I did not join up for free dinners and perks.”

Cr McLean said she the council spent $35,000 on reality tv show ‘The Biggest Loser’. 

Mayor Paul Hooper said Cr McLean must only speak to the motion.

“I can’t accept what you are talking about. It has no relevance to the motion.”

Cr McLean said she would raise the issue during general business.

Councillors also voted to accept the recommendations put forward in the inquiry’s report, including that an external monitor be appointed for two years and an independent interim chief executive be appointed for 12 months.,

Cr Peter Beales says he accepts the commission of inquiry’s report and said it was damning and showed the the loss of faith in the council.

Cr Beales said he was disappointed that the report did not acknowledge that Cr Gwenda Allgood was overseas during much of the public consultation and that he found some findings about the audit committee difficult to understand.

Cr Darren Ford said had learned a lot about the farmers and their situation and that the council had been put under the microscope.

Motion was passed that Council accept and endorse the Minister for Local Government’s recommendations following the Commission of Inquiry into Ararat Rural City Council.

Farmers within Ararat Rural City Council and the Victorian Farmers Federation had fought against abolishing differential rates, claiming that it would have placed an unfair burden on primary producers.

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