The decision by Bega Valley Shire Councillors, led by Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick, to proceed with an application to IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) for a permanent Special Rate Variation (SRV) of 43% spread over two years is receiving considerable criticism across social media by ratepayers. Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick is being remined of his electioneering promise of November 21st 2021 where he clearly committed to ‘If re-elected I commit to continue to: Keep RATES affordable’ Now, just over 12 months after his election the Bega Mayor is saying “While realistically we need a 90% increase, we’ve listened to the community about the economic stresses they are experiencing.
‘However, this reduction will impact our ability to deliver the same levels of service across our operations.
“We simply won’t be able to do everything that is required over the next 10 years, such as renewing some of the key assets the community relies on and values including pools, buildings, roads and bridges, which will now be dependent on receiving full or partial grant funding.”
In making the announcement the Bega Mayor gave no explanation other than to say “We are in the unenviable position of seeking an increase in rates, however the cost to deliver services and maintain community assets continues to increase above the income Council obtains each year. The Member for Bega, Dr Michael Holland, offers an insight into one possible cause of the "unenviable position". Dr Holland says "It’s important to remember one of the reasons the Bega Valley Shire Council has found itself in the position has been the rampant cost-shifting onto local councils from the State Liberal national Government. Not to mention the breaking of one of their key 2019 election promises to reclassify 15,000km of regional roads back into state hands.”
“We’re still waiting for the Minister to reveal the reclassification report that’s been in his custody since November last year.”
“Bega Valley has one of the largest council owned road networks in the state and with the increase in catastrophic weather events in the past years millions has been spent on trying to keep our roads from literally falling apart.”
“My concern is for our most vulnerable in the community who are already facing significant cost-of-living pressures, including increasing interest rates and cost of everyday essentials like groceries.”
“We have one of the oldest demographics in the state here on the South Coast, many of whom are already struggling with paying their mounting electricity bills” the Member for Bega, Dr Michael Holland, said.