Mayoral candidate pledges to keep rates on hold
MAYORAL candidate Chris Loft has promised to keep rate rises on hold with the support of councillors and without "mass sackings" of Fraser Coast Regional Council staff.
After weeks of silence Cr Loft has pledged to stop rates rising if the majority of the council will assist him.
"I believe I can hold rates but it's not just my decision - it will be the input from all councillors," he said.
"It's not up to me - I'm one of 11."
Cr Loft said he intended to audit the council's operations.
Auditing the council's operations will be a priority for Cr Loft if he is elected to the Tavistock St mayor's office on March 19.
Using the savings he is expecting to find, Cr Loft believes that will be enough to prevent an initial rate increase.
"I'm convinced (it is possible to freeze rates), I know it - (council) wastage will be shown," he said.
"It definitely should not be more than CPI."
Incumbent mayor Gerard O'Connell, who has prided himself on delivering a record infrastructure spend of $55 million said the community expected to receive services.
"It might be populist to talk about keeping rates on hold but you then need to put some detail," he said.
"It might be a good way of getting a few votes but you need to back it up by saying what you're not going to do."
He challenged Cr Loft to detail what services the council would discontinue and savings that would be found under his mayoralship.
"You need to say how many people you're going to sack," Cr O'Connell declared.
"Are you going to put a toll on the boat ramps - charge for people to borrow a library book?
"Do you stop cleaning the toilets, mowing the grass, do you close libraries or art galleries?"
When asked, Cr Loft said he would not cut staff, easing "concerns" of council staff.
"No, no; I'm not out for mass sackings at all," he promised.
"But you've got to be efficient and productive in a day - it's just good business."
Councillors Loft, O'Connell and community member Jannean Dean are the only confirmed mayoral candidates so far.
Ms Dean has pledged to review rates and reward people who pay rates by giving them two trees to plant.
"I think that's all we can do," she said.
"I don't think any candidate for mayor or divisions should come out promising anything - they're only one vote out of 11."
Ms Dean said the council's current $75 infrastructure levy could be reviewed and broken down further.
"A possible solution to that could be $25 towards an environmental levy, $10 for a vital emergency infrastructure fee and the other $25 could go back into the kitty to reduce rates," she said.
"I think it (the council) needs a massive audit and a massive review and then we can put the right things in place."
Yesterday, exactly two months from the march elections Cr O'Connell defended his record.
"We've been able to get $15 million in savings and $4 million in water (savings)," he said.
"I will never stop looking for cost savings."
Arguing against the council's program, Cr Loft suggested expenditure was trimmed "back to the wick".
"They just keep spending on top of spending," he said.
"You've got to pull your head in when times are tough."
When asked about his major election commitments Cr Loft said he would reveal economy-stimulating policies closer to the election date.
"Spending needs to be related to job creation, job creation now," he said.