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ARC Using a Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut

ARC Using a Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut

Last year, in May, the ARC sent out a document which spelt out the functions of the ARC but made no mention of the rating system. Supposedly this was part of the consultation process, but the process was a sham. When people started receiving their bills in July there were reactions of dismay, anger and outright disbelief.Largely because of the removal of the business differential, residential rates skyrocketed.

Ratepayers put pressure on the Council to have a rethink but to no avail. What upset ratepayers even more was the fact that the press releases by the Council smacked of arrogance. Out of 800 calls to the rates hotline "only 27 were irate" reported the Herald on 17 July 2003. Yet a petition against the new system was signed by more than 40 000 ratepayers.

On 18 November Jo Brosnahan ARC Chief Executive, commenting on a Silver Achievement Award from the Business Excellence Foundation said the award showed the council, which refused to back down over its rates rises, had the humility to learn from its mistakes and do better. How much better? Well look at the letter sent out to 10 000 ratepayers or is it 40 000 ratepayers or is it 100 000 ratepayers dated February 4? Its tone was intimidatory and its posting was out of time. I rang every Councillor, including Gwen Bull, and of those who were available or bothered to return my calls, not one had seen it before it went out.

I emailed 4 questions to be forwarded to all Councillors next morning. I rang the hotline to be told "I'm sure the Councillors saw it before it went out." I was quite frankly handed a load of tripe and, to date only 3 out of 13 Councillors have responded in writing to my questions and a number of them have told me they have no intention of responding at all!

As a result of my phone conversation with Tony Darby on Monday I put 9 questions to him. On Tuesday I was informed I would be getting replies from Dr Hutchinson "in due course." Claims that "a number of Councillors" saw the letter before it went out were modified to "three councillors saw the letter before it went out" to "possibly one Councillor saw the letter before it went out." I was also told it had the approval of ARC's legal advisors. Yesterday I was informed by one of the Councillors that no ARC member was aware staff were sending the letters out.

The organisation is in disarray, some councillors are arrogant, the information conveyed to ratepayers and the media is quite inaccurate. That's why I haven't paid my rates!!!!

Gary Osborne

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