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Four-year city council rate freeze put on ice

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Calls for an Adelaide City Council four-year rates freeze have been knocked back, after one councillor warned it could lead to “Edward Scissorhands” cuts to services.

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The council has decided to instead consider a continued freeze in the rate in the dollar in its 2019-20 budget.

Proposing the council consider a rate freeze for the fifth consecutive year, area councillor Franz Knoll told Tuesday night’s meeting it was important “to show that Adelaide is an affordable city”.

“This was something that was widely talked about during the election process,” he said.

“This is just council saying to business and ratepayers that we are showing constraint and that we are trying to find other means by which we can fulfil our obligations and the aspirations of the community.”

But fellow area councillor Anne Moran proposed Knoll’s motion be amended to extend the rate freeze for the duration of the four-year council term to show a stronger commitment to responding to ratepayers’ pain.

“I’m very nervous about people’s commitment to rate freezes,” she said.

“It’s easy to freeze the rates straight after the election (but) it’s a commitment to say that that is going to be your policy for this council term.”

The proposal drew concern from area councillor Robert Simms – a long-term advocate against rate freezes – who told the council chamber a sustained rate freeze could lead to council job cuts and service reductions.

“I think it is easy when we talk about rate freezes that we expect staff to do more for less,” he said.

“The reality is, once you reduce the revenue base and you start putting in efficiency dividends, it makes things very difficult for people on the front line and it’s the community that bears the brunt of that.

Edward Scissorhands will be coming to Adelaide City Council.”

But central ward councillor Jessy Khera dismissed Simms’ claim.

“Councillor Simms is talking about Edward Scissorhands and it’s all dark shadows or whatever… (he) is talking as if there is a cut in rates intake looming but this is not a rates cut,” he said.

“We know through the budgeting already the budget intake is projected to go up by $4 million.

“There are no cuts involved in us saying lets freeze the rates.”

Khera was supported by deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad, who said he was “sick and tired of talking about cuts, cuts, cuts”.

Abiad said he supported a freeze in the rate in the dollar for the next financial year, but he warned the council was not in a position to determine its financial standing in four years’ time.

Abiad and the five other members of the so-called “Team Adelaide” faction – including Franz Knoll, Simon Hou, Mary Couros, Arman Abrahimzadeh and Alexander Hyde – voted down Moran’s amendment.

All members – except Simms – voted in favour of considering a rate freeze for the next financial year.

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