AFTER a fractious council meeting Bayswater property owners face a rates bump of an average 3.25 per cent, more than twice CPI.
It took two meetings to pass the budget and councillors were split over it, with Chris Cornish and Brent Fleeton walking out of the first meeting after an hour of debate.
At the time the council was in a 5/5 deadlock, and while other councillors wanted a 30-minute informal chat about getting it passed, but Cr Fleeton said that wouldn’t be sufficient to resolve the issues he had with the budget and he walked away.
Cr Fleeton had wanted a 1 per cent rate increase on the back of a savings plan.
‘Not in control’
He’s been complaining for months that councillors are frozen out of important decisions like staff salary negotiations that could lock the organisation into big wage increases for many years.
Cr Fleeton, who favours small local governments focused on “rates, roads and rubbish”, says without a hand in those negotiations, which affect the Bayswater’s biggest recurrent overhead, “I strongly suggest this council is not in control of this city”.
Cr Cornish has concerns the council is pulling cash from reserves to keep rates artificially low, but won’t have enough left to maintain infrastructure.
The budget was passed second time round but was still a bumpy debate with Crs Cornish and Dan Bull voting nay, and Cr Fleeton boycotting the meeting.
The longstanding 15 per cent resident discount at Bayswater Waves and Maylands Waterland (and now the Rise centre) is on the chopping block this year, but council’s yet to decide how much of the discount to snip.
Major works for the year include $400,000 for new tree plantings in line with the new councillor-driven greening of the city, $196,000 on other environmental measures, $920,000 to upgrade Bayswater Waves, and $620,000 grand to fix up the various rusty sporting clubs around town.
Mayor Barry McKenna called it a “prudent” budget and says they strove to limit the rate rise “to no more than was needed”.
“These are difficult economic times and we recognised that family budgets would be under pressure, so we strove to keep the rise in rates as low as we could while also meeting community expectations,” the mayor said.
by DAVID BELL