CITY of Greater Bendigo councillor Peter Cox has put out a challenge to candidates in October’s election.
The Eaglehawk Ward councillor has urged candidates to support the capping of future rates increases, and be judged if they don’t.
After the 2008 election, the City of Ballarat council capped rates increases at four per cent each year, vowing to keep costs down for its ratepayers.
It was a popular decision.
Ballarat ratepayers paid rates increases of four per cent for three of the past four years, with an increase of only 3.5 per cent last financial year.
In comparison, Bendigo ratepayers have copped rates increases of 4.5, 5.9 and 5.5 per cent for the past three years, and face a six per cent increase next year.
Cr Cox, left, said he would go to the election urging other candidates to follow Ballarat’s lead, if elected.
“I like this idea. It is a very positive move,” he said.
“A rates cap could crystallise the election campaign to a point where ratepayers would know where individual councillors and candidates stand in relation to rates, rather than just a general comment about running to keep rates low.
“This is something people can understand and it is measurable, so people can hold councillors to account.”
Cr Cox said the fiscal responsibility underlying the rates cap idea was part of his call for an independent council review, rejected for a second time by council last week.
“I believe there are enough savings in the existing budget to have a rates cap at four per cent,” he said.“Ballarat is doing this and Shepparton is also having a review. It seems we have our eyes closed to any productivity or efficiency achievements.
“With a budget of $150 million there is no doubt you could make savings.”
City of Ballarat mayor Mark Harris said he was proud of his council’s rates cap.
“We are keen to have very tight fiscal control. It is difficult, you have to keep costs tight,” he said.
“We think it’s better for people to know what the rates will be. We hope the next council also sets a cap close to four per cent.”
Despite Bendigo having a capital works program almost $20 million higher than Ballarat’s this financial year, Cr Harris said the rates cap was good for his city.
“Look at our management of assets and the management of Bendigo assets,” he said.
“I know which ones I would rather be looking after.
“We are looking after our current infrastructure.
“I have no apologies for our fiscal position.
“You can get big and invest, and increase capital works, but the ratepayers have to pay for it.”