Mayor praises lake rate hike

LAKE Macquarie Mayor Greg Piper has praised fellow councillors for showing the courage to support a massive rate rise over seven years.

His comments came on Tuesday as the council approved its 2012-13 budget, which incorporates a rate rise that the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal approved.

Average residential rates will rise by 9.75per cent and business rates by 14per cent next financial year. The increases are the first year of a much bigger rise the tribunal has approved.

As reported last week, Lake Macquarie residents will pay an average rate rise of 55per cent over seven years, with business rates to rise by 71per cent over the same period.

Cr Piper said councillors, who voted unanimously for the rate rise, ‘‘have been courageous and shown some wisdom and vision for the future’’.

He said it had been clear for some time that the council had to significantly cut services or increase income.

It had faced some criticism for its consultation on the rates plan, but Cr Piper said the tribunal had praised the council’s work in that area.

He said residents who supported a rise did not necessarily want to pay more rates, but ‘‘could see it needed to occur’’.

He said some people ‘‘want to compare us to the private sector, but by reasoned measures the council was leading its field’’.

The decision to increase rates appears set to be a central feature of the September council election.

The Back to Basics Coalition, which opposed the rates rise, said it would ‘‘continue to focus on council waste and savings in the lead up to the election’’.

Coalition spokesman Chris Osborne said it was morally wrong for an outgoing council to ‘‘lock in future councils’’ to big rate rises over seven years.

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