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BANJUP RESIDENTS GROUP (Inc.)

Rural Residents Must Be Heard !!

News

Cockburn Will Fix the Rates Problem and Council Applauds the BRG

Posted by Ian Thurston on September 10, 2015 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

At last – the City of Cockburn accepted that the “average” rate rise was not 3.5% but was almost double at 6.4%. Cockburn’s CEO admitted that the council staff had made an error in setting the rates and proposed that money should be refunded to ratepayers to bring the average down to about 3.8%. At their September meeting, Councillors agreed and a letter of apology and refunds of $50 to $1000 will soon be posted to ratepayers.

Banjup Residents have been pressing Cockburn on the rates problem since 11 June. We were dismissed or ignored on 22 occasions. Our persistence has paid off and we are pleased that the problem has now been fixed.

On 10 September, BRG Committee members met with the Cockburn CEO and senior officers for a candid discussion of the rates issues and how the City proposed to fix the problems. Afterwards, Committee members made a statement at our deputation to that evening’s Council meeting. This is what we said:

 

Statement Read to Council

Banjup Residents appreciate the time taken on 10 September by the Cockburn CEO and senior officers to explain the rates issues to us.

Banjup Residents are pleased that:

  • The City has now acknowledged that it did have a problem with the rates
  • A thorough investigation has revealed the scale of the problem
  • Ratepayers will be refunded the City’s over-collection
  • The City has given Banjup Residents open access to the rates data and calculations

However, we are concerned that our representations were dismissed or ignored for 10 weeks. If the City had listened, the rates problem could have been fixed much earlier without the angst and expense that has affected us all.

We hope that the City will learn from this experience and listen better to ratepayers’ concerns.

[Referring to the officers’ report to council], we need to put the record straight:

  • Banjup Residents did not “purport” that not billing additional waste was the cause of the higher rates bills.
  • Purport means to “falsely represent” and we did no such thing.
  • We find it offensive for us to be described so in the Officers Report to Council. We ask that the officer’s statement be corrected and reflected in the minutes of the Council meeting.

Banjup Residents look forward to a more transparent rate setting process next year.

 

Councillor Questions

Cllr Houwen asked how the BRG had alerted the City to the rates problem. The BRG replied that since 11 June they had made 22 separate approaches by email and presentations to the Mayor, councillors, the CEO, and the Finance Director. In preparation for its 21 June General Meeting, the BRG Committee had discovered that the average rates rises were not the 3.5% promised by Cockburn but were closer to 7.5%. At that meeting of 70 ratepayers, which was attended by the Mayor, councillors, and the Finance Director, the City dismissed the BRG’s calculations and maintained that they were right.

Cllr Smith asked if the BRG was pleased with the outcome of the rates review process. The BRG replied that we were but disappointed that it had taken so long.

The Mayor and councillors thanked the BRG for their continual efforts in bringing the rates problem to the City’s attention. Councillors then clapped their hands to applaud the Banjup Residents Group.

The BRG representatives thanked the Council for their kind sentiments.

"3.5% average" rates rise really 7.9%

Posted by Ian Thurston on August 13, 2015 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The BRG made a deputation to the Cockburn Council meeting of 13 August 2015. We wanted to show councillors how much in error the rate setting had been.

We wanted to make these points:

  • 3.5% average rate rise is not correct – the real average is over double that – 7.9%
  • 14,000 ratepayers have had 8% rises or more
  • Additional Waste charges for 2,000 ratepayers are now being smeared across all 37,000 ratepayers, at a cost to them of $1.97 million
  • Next year, pensioners will be worse off under the rubbish roll up scheme
  • Council has the legal ability to refund overcharged rates
  • Refunding $1.97 million will reduce the actual rates rise to 4%

 

5 minutes into our presentation the Mayor told us that our time was up. Cllr Allen said that Council's Standing Orders allowed for more time to be given, so, after referring to those orders, we got a further 5 minutes plus a bit more for a few questions. We scampered through the rest of the presentation but we were not able to drive our points home as we would have wished.

The next 3 deputations were all about a proposed petrol station in Hamilton Hill. The Mayor allowed them free rein and Council ended up spending at least 45 minutes on the matter in deputation. Just shows where the priorities lie,

Towards the end of the meeting, Council did agree that October's internal audit of Cockburn by Deloittes be extended to rate setting. We trust that all will be revealed then.

You can download our presentation to council here.

Cockburn Yet to Show Rate Rises Average 3.5%

Posted by Ian Thurston on July 10, 2015 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (3)

Members who attended the 21 June meeting of the BRG will recall that Cockburn’s Finance Director maintained that he was right and we were wrong about the average rate rise. He said it was 3.5% and we said it was 8%. He said he would meet with us to explain.

Well, we wrote to him on 25 June enclosing our calculations and suggesting that we meet. We did not even get an acknowledgement and we are still waiting for an explanation.

Rate notices will be in the post in the next week or two, so we wanted to be able to tell members what the average rate rise really is. Whose calculations were right? Becoming frustrated by being ignored or dismissed we resorted to Freedom of Information legislation and requested from Cockburn all documents relating to setting of the rates for 2015/16.

You would have thought that that would have got their attention. Well, no-one yet has picked up the phone or sent an email saying let’s sort this out.

What is causing the delay? Have they found yet another mistake?

We are particularly concerned about the equity in the rating system now that pensioners “have been given a break” by rolling rubbish into the general rate so that a bigger rebate from the State government can be claimed

The result of this roll up is that an average non-pensioner in Cockburn will pay $109 more so that an average pensioner can pay $195 less. In Banjup many non-pensioners will pay $193 more so pensioners can pay $154 less.

None of these implications appear to have been mentioned to councillors when they approved the rates at their 11 June meeting.

See our Rates page for a full description of our calculations.

Banjup Rates and Charges to Rise by 4.9%

Posted by Ian Thurston on May 18, 2013 at 3:25 AM Comments comments (0)

In April 2013, the City of Cockburn published its “objects and reasons” report for the year 2013-14. Cockburn proposes to increase GRV rated residential properties by 4.75%.

The rubbish collection charge will increase by $18 and CoSafe by $5, both annually. The swimming pool inspection fee is unchanged.

The proposed rate in the dollar for residential properties is $0.05089. So, for a typical Banjup property with a GRV of $22,000, the annual rates bill will be  

 

$22,000 x 0.05089 =  $1,120

 

up from $1,069 in 2012-13, an increase of $51.

The typical total rates and charges bill will increase by about 4.9%, or $1.42 per week.

Banjup residents are invited to comment here on this increase so that the Committee may, if appropriate, make a submission to the City on your behalf. Please let us know your thoughts by 24 May.

 

 

City of Cockburn Business Plan

Posted by Ian Thurston on April 27, 2013 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

We have made a submission to the City of Cockburn concerning their Corporate Business Plan for the next 5 years. We have made these comments:

  • Feral animal control should be adequately funded over the coming years
  • The City’s Fire Management programme, which is under-funded by $500,000, should be properly funded over the coming years
  • How will the planned 15% increase in staff numbers impact our rates bills?

You can download our submission here.

 

 

Rate Notices Not Out

Posted by Ian Thurston on May 29, 2012 at 3:40 AM Comments comments (2)

"Rates Notice"

"The City of Cockburn Rates Notices are now out please check our web site for details"

Despite this announcement by the City of Cockburn on page 4 of the Cockburn Gazette of 29 May 2012, rate notices are not out. They will not be finalised until the City’s budget is approved, probably in July.

We have alerted the Mayor and ward councillors to the error. This latest mistake and public confusion further erodes our confidence that the City of Cockburn is a well run organisation. It serves to underscore our Rates Increase submission that the City should look first at rationalising and improving its own business processes before looking to ratepayers for yet more revenues.

Rates Increase Submission

Posted by Ian Thurston on May 29, 2012 at 3:40 AM Comments comments (0)

The Group made a strong submission to the City of Cockburn that it should look first at rationalising and improving its own business processes before looking to ratepayers for yet more revenues by way of a 4.5% rate rise. Our submission is in response to Cockburn's Objects & Reasons document. You can download the submission here.

We pointed out that Cockburn barely complied with the Local Government Act by hiding the announcement of its planned rate rises on page 118 of the West Australian of 5 May and putting the link to it 3 levels down on its web site and 44th in a long list of other documents.

Our submission highlighted the lacklustre performance of the City and the doubling of their rate revenues over the past 5 years. We asked why more staff keep being hired and why the City is paying them more than other local governments.

In the coming year, when pensioners will receive no increase from the federal government, we asked the City of Cockburn to make more strenuous efforts to cut back on spending and improve their business efficiency before imposing a rate rise.

Council Retreats on Rate Rise !!

Posted by Ian Thurston on August 13, 2011 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (3)

Your Committee is pleased to say that our lobbying of Cockburn Council and showing them the errors at law that they made in adopting the rate in the dollar for Banjup has resulted in the City promising to withdraw our rate notices and issuing new ones that should show a reduction of over $200 each.

You might be aware that in April Cockburn published for comment its proposed rates in the dollar for all property zones in the City. The rate for Banjup, Resource - General, was set at 0.0018, a rise of 6% on last year. However, when Council approved the Budget in June, the rate for Banjup had 'in error' been changed to 0.0022, a rise of 29%. Because no reason was given to Councillors or to ratepayers for this change, the Banjup Residents Group claimed that this was unlawful under the Local Government Act. The City now recognises this and so our rate notices are being replaced. An apology from the City will accompany the revised rates notices.

You can find a detailed explanation of our claim here.

We have asked the Director of Finance to reconcile this explanation of an error with his explanation last week that we had large houses on large blocks and that the massive rise in rates was to increase the rates 'yield' from us. You will be able to hear the explanation from him direct when you attend our General Meeting on Sunday 28 August. It should make interesting listening.

35% Rate Increase !!!!

Posted by Ian Thurston on August 5, 2011 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (2)

BRG Committee members met with the Director of Finance of the City of Cockburn on Thursday 4 August to ask why Banjup's ratepayers have been slugged with a 35% increase when the rest of Cockburn has had only a 5% increase. The answer is:

"Banjup has large blocks with large houses on them and should pay more”

Naturally, we strongly rejected this assertion.

The Director of Finance has accepted our invitation to address the next General Meeting of the Banjup Residents Group on Sunday 28 August. He is prepared to defend his budget and to answer ratepayers' questions. We are sure that you will have many questions to put to him.

Please let your Committee know your thoughts on this by adding comments to this item.