Body could say if rates unfair
AN INDEPENDENT rates authority could restore confidence among beleaguered ratepayers when it comes to coughing up for council charges.
That’s the view of Maryborough MP Chris Foley who has called on Local Government Minister Desley Boyle to look seriously at establishing a third party where councils would present proposed rates hikes.
“The statutory independent body would have the power to say the increases are fair and reasonable or say they’re ridiculous,” Mr Foley said.
He said his Lennox Street office had been inundated with complaints about rates during the past six weeks, prompting him to take the case to the Queensland Parliament.
After a barrage of complaints to his office, he has now put a question on notice to the minister after outlining to her and the house the feelings of ratepayers in his Maryborough constituency.
“An increasing number of people complain about the costs that are levied on them by local government.
“That puts us in a difficult position.
“In Qld there are 73 councils and this growing frustration over the increasing charges is something that we cannot do anything about at a normal level.”
The Maryborough MP tabled a Department of Infrastructure and Planning document showing the course of action currently available to unhappy ratepayers.
“If they have a complaint about their council they should contact that council directly.
“Of course, people then perceive the situation to be one where Caesar is judging Caesar.”
Mr Foley spotlighted, in Parliament, the case of a Maryborough publican who had received a $15,000 bill which was eventually waived after he questioned the charge and a calculation error was discovered.
He argued that the uncertainty created by such an episode needed to be addressed by an independent arbiter.
“We have a local government ombudsman but that’s only to look at disputes,” Mr Foley told the Chronicle this week.
“If local government wants to increase its charges, they should have to submit what the increases are and why they want to bring them in to an independent third party.
“It wouldn’t need to be a large organisation.
“It could be someone with a background in auditing who could call it if a council was stiffing ratepayers.
“I don’t think councils would have anything to fear.
“Councils are really a law unto themselves when it comes to what they are charging.
“It’s quite a logical, idea but whether it happens is down to whether the local government minister thinks it’s a good idea.”