A FRUGAL budget’s been passed by Perth council with a modest rate increase “believed to be the lowest announced to date of all metropolitan local governments” according to the council’s finance staff.
Residential and office ratepayers will see their bill rise an average of 1 per cent, and retail, hotel and commercial rates will go up an average of 0.5 per cent. It’s the first rate rise in three years after the freeze during the Covid era.
The rates have been kept low in part because the council’s reduced operating costs.
Some recent money-saving measures have been unpopular though, like the closure of the Citiplace Child Care Centre and ending the 24-hour public toilet provision near the train station. It was the only 24-hour toilet in the city and a lifesaver for late night widdlers, but now closes at 6.45pm weeknights and 2.30am on Fridays and Saturdays.
All up spending on community services dropped from $10.3m last year to $8.3m this year.
Lord mayor Basil Zempilas said the small rise in rates “demonstrates our commitment to supporting our ratepayers”.
“The $261.9m budget will see us invest in programs to keep our city clean and safe.” Mr Zempilas said. “It includes important upgrades to street lighting and roads, as well as cycle ways and shared pathways, to give people sustainable options for getting around the city.”
Cost of living
Only one councillor voted against the budget, with Cr Sandy Anghie arguing against any rate rise.
“I believe further savings could have been found,” Cr Anghie said.
“With the cost of living pressures in the news every day, people don’t need a rate rise if it can be avoided, no matter how minor.”
Cr Anghie also opposed the council’s trend of spending money directly on its own events, saying they should instead just sponsor others’ events.
She’d pored over old agendas and found that when the council funded external events it usually brought in twice as many people per dollar spent than when it funded its own shows.
“I would like to see the city support others more to deliver a steady stream of events rather than the city embarking on events itself,” Cr Anghie said.
The 0.5 – 1 per cent rate rise in Perth has been dwarfed by 7.6 per cent increase in Vincent and the 3.75 per cent increase at Stirling, though Perth council can usually afford to have lower rates given how much it makes in parking revenue.
Stirling’s rates were on track to be higher but they scrimped and saved and delayed some projects to keep it at 3.75 per cent.
“We have made some tough decisions to make sure we do the right thing by our ratepayers and keep increases to a minimum,” mayor Mark Irwin said in his budget statement.
“Major construction projects such as the redevelopment of the Recycling Centre Balcatta and the Hamersley Public Golf Course have been put on hold while the cost of building and construction continues to rise.”
by DAVID BELL