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MP stands ground, calls on Mayor to reduce rates

MARYBOROUGH MP Anne Maddern has defended her attack on Mayor Gerard O'Connell, but continued to call on him to find savings and reduce rates.

Ms Maddern is on sick leave, but when speaking to the Chronicle from her home, reiterated her point that the Mayor needed to listen to the community.

When asked about Cr O'Connell's rate rise, Ms Maddern said her Maryborough ratepayers had said they couldn't "continue to sustain rate increases".

"He's missing the point," she said.

"Someone who's on a pension can't sustain a 7% rate increase.

"Now, Gerard says it's 3% and on general rates it is - but on the bottom line it's 7% because it's got infrastructure charges and other charges added into it."

One of the charges added to the council's rates notice was the State Government's fire levy.

But Cr O'Connell was again on the front foot on Wednesday, citing $15 million saved since the 2008 amalgamation.

"If Anne's got some genuine suggestions, solutions or strategies, I'm more than happy to discuss it," he said.

"Not backwards and forwards in the media - that's not how it's done."

He also said this year's budget took months of planning and was the most intensely scrutinised budget he had been involved in.

In the third attack on Cr O'Connell since June, Ms Maddern said she was standing up for ratepayers by criticising the Mayor.

"All I am doing is passing (feedback) on to him," she said.

However, Ms Maddern disagreed feedback had only been given to the mayor through media statements.

"It has been done in private with Gerard at meetings," she said.

"I have written quite a number of letters to council on rating issues.

"Gerard needs to understand that his community is crying out with the pain of rates."

Cr O'Connell said his door was always open.

Despite saying she wasn't "going to tell Gerard how to do it", Ms Maddern offered some suggestions to the council.

"They need to do two things - they need to grow the rate base," she said.

"Secondly, they need to look at savings.

"It is after all, the mayor's budget - that's what it's called."

Cr O'Connell said the removal of a 40% electricity subsidy by the State Government had hurt the council - but Ms Maddern told him to deal with it.

"I agree these are additional charges, but every other council has to deal with them as well," she said.

"Other councils seem to be able to manage their budgets significantly better."

Topics:  anne maddern, fraser coast regional council, gerard o'connell, maryborough, mayor, mp, rates




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