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City council seeks a seat at Govt's rate-capping table

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Lord Mayor Martin Haese will personally consult with the State Government over its rate-capping legislation on behalf of the city council, as it questions the value of remaining a member of the Local Government Association.

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The council last night instructed Haese to communicate with the government about the development of its bill to limit council rates, but stopped short of expressing outright support for the policy.

The council also instructed its staff to produce a report on the value, and disadvantages, of its Local Government Association membership.

Area councillor Anne Moran argued that the council should throw its full weight behind the Government’s rate-capping policy, a key plank of the Liberal Party’s election platform, and that it should ditch the LGA.

She said the council had had an “awful” relationship with the former Labor Government and that endorsing rate-capping would secure a “friendlier” relationship with the new Liberal Government.

“If we wage war on this Government over something we cannot win and line up with an organisation like the LGA (by opposing rate-capping) we will slam the door on any friendly relations we have with them forever,” she said.

“Rate capping is coming… we want a seat at that table.

“I don’t know one ratepayer (who) isn’t all for rate capping.”

However, North Adelaide councillor Sue Clearihan – whom the city council nominated as an LGA board member in 2016 – said rate-capping would hurt local communities.

She argued the council should not undermine the LGA’s public campaign against rate-capping and expressed hope that the Legislative Council will block the Government’s legislation.

The council decided against a total endorsement of rate-capping policy, instead instructing Haese to “liaise with the State Government on council’s behalf regarding the development of legislation to restrict rate rises”.

Moran said it was important that the council instruct Haese to negotiate with the Government about its rate-capping bill, rather than rely on the Local Government Association to represent the council’s interests.

Asked how he would interpret the motion, Haese said he would take a collaborative approach and report back to the council.

“I’d have to go in with a lens, a practical lens, of ‘we note, Government, that you’ve clearly stated a rate-capping policy (and that) as a capital city council in South Australia we’d like to be at the table to collaborate with you on it – what, precisely are you looking to achieve?’” Haese told last night’s meeting.

“I’d have to exercise good judgment and I’ll need to bring that back to you (the council).”

Moran successfully moved to order a review of the council’s Local Government Association membership, hoping that a council staff report on the subject would “underline” her view that it is of no use to the city council’s ratepayers.

“I don’t think it performs any function that the City of Adelaide needs,” she said.

“It seems to me that it’s a union for the administration (council staff).

“This is a shadow of the LGA as it used to be.”

Moran added that the Adelaide City Council did not “need” rate capping, because it had voluntarily kept its own rates on hold, but that other local councils – she nominated the City of Onkaparinga and City of Burnside– needed rate-capping to curb their excesses.

Onkaparinga Council has been embroiled in an executive staff spending scandal in recent months, while the Burnside Council briefly considered, but thought better of, a large rate hike to secure its financial position ahead of the implementation of rate-capping.

“Other councils are not running their finances well,” she said.

However, Central Ward councillor Megan Hender said she could not support rate-capping because of a fundamental principle that one level of government should not control another’s means of funding itself.

Area councillor Sandy Wilkinson said he was uncomfortable with the city council entering a debate in state politics.

North Ward councillor Phil Martin cautioned that the council had “absolutely no knowledge” about the detail of the Government’s rate capping plans, and should not take any firm position on the policy prematurely.

Goldstone said a special meeting of the LGA had been proposed to discuss rate-capping, and that if that meeting went ahead the City of Adelaide would have to decide on a concrete position to take to it.

Area councillor Natasha Malani said she the council should not even consider whether it should be a member of the LGA; rather, it should use its membership to press for change from within.

“You make change by being a member,” she said.

Goldstone said the council’s administration would produce a “balanced” report on the merits of LGA membership within a month.

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