Newcastle council votes for 8.6% rate rise

NEWCASTLE City Council has taken the final step towards an 8.6 per cent rates increase, voting to approve the hike in its budget.

A final decision will be made by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal and announced on June 6.

The council last night voted seven to five in favour of the operational plan for 2012-13.

Lord mayor John Tate, councillors Aaron Buman, Brad Luke, Mike Jackson and Scott Sharpe voted against the budget.

Cr Luke said the council had not done enough previously to save money.

‘‘I don’t support the 5 per cent [increase on top of the 3.6 per cent rate cap] when we have failed in the last five years to make cuts in our budget,’’ Cr Luke said.

Cr Mike King said the increase was not to be put towards the council’s operating budget and would be used for specific capital projects.

‘‘We can talk about cost-cutting until we’re blue in the face and we should have that conversation, but they’re two separate issues,’’ he said.

Cr Tate said he was concerned that the council could not ensure the nine specific projects to be funded by the increase would be delivered.

Cr Bob Cook asked Cr Tate during the debate whether he drove the lord mayoral car to Sydney to ‘‘lobby’’ IPART in opposition to the rates increase.

He said he had travelled to Sydney and had spoken with IPART but had asked two questions about the process and did not lobby the tribunal.

Councillors voted unanimously to support a motion to ‘‘actively work to improve council’s forecast budget position’’ for the 2013-14 year by continuing with service reviews and other measures.

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