More safeguards needed in Local Govt Bill
The Local Government Amendment Bill has been produced without proper consultation with ratepayers, who'll inevitably face bigger rates demands if the Bill is passed in its present form, says the Local Government Forum*.
Forum Chairman Rob McLagan told the select committee considering the Bill that it would promote council activities that could drastically increase the cost of local government. Already over the past 10 years, rates have increased at twice the rate of inflation.
Mr McLagan tabled a list of recommended amendments for changes to the Bill, including:
* more accountability and transparency
requirements including thebenchmarking of council
* guidelines for revenue policies, to ensure fairness between different types of ratepayers
* an independent review body to deal with disputes between local bodies and ratepayers
* specifying the roles and responsibilities of local and regional councils, to avoid duplication
* ratepayer-initiated referenda for issues like rating formulae, or the entry or exit from major services or assets.
Mr McLagan said while central and local government had been extensively consulted over the Bill, ratepayers had not, and business ratepayers, who pay around 50% of all rates, would be particularly affected by the Bill's provisions.
"The Local government Amendment Bill considerably extends the powers of local authorities, without commensurate accountability safeguards and ratepayers require more protection than is afforded by this Bill," Mr McLagan said.