IPART reports dusted off
The NSW Government says it will consult with councils on recommendations from three key reports by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.
The reports – one which reviews the local government rating system and two which relate to reporting and compliance functions– have been gathering dust for up to five years, amid political sensitivities over rates, levies and other local government costs.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge bought the issue of delayed reports to a head by foreshadowing moves to call for the Rating Review to be brought before the Upper House.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said it was a relief that the Government had finally released the reports and agreed to further discussions with the sector on how all levels of Government can best meet growing community needs.
“It’s gratifying that IPART confirms what we’ve been saying for a long, long time: if we’re going to meet the needs of our growing communities, there needs to be more flexibility for councils and less cost shifting from the State Government,” Cr Scott said.
“We are also strongly supportive of IPART’s finding that the State Government should work as a partner with our sector in considering the impact and cost of their regulatory requirements, and should remove restrictions on fees for statutory approvals and inspections to allow for the recovery of efficient costs.
“These reports open the way to a mature, evidence-based approach, and we thank Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock for hearing LGNSW’s calls for further input.
“However, it’s fair to say we’re disappointed a number of IPART’s recommendations are not up for discussion, including outdated rating exemptions that give a free ride to many profit-making bodies such as private hospitals.”
Cr Scott said one of the issues up for discussion was the flexibility for individual councils to choose whether to calculate rates on Capital Improved Value (essentially the market value of a property), or Unimproved Value (land only).
“A modern, fair ratings system needs a new flexible approach, and that’s what we’ll be working with the NSW Government to achieve,” she said.
Cr Scott said the IPART report on reporting and compliance burdens had the potential to fundamentally reform the relationship between the State and Local tiers of Government in NSW.
“IPART acknowledges direct cost- shifting onto councils by the State Government, as well as the imposition of large and unnecessary administrative burdens,” she said.
“At the time of the report, IPART found councils had around 120 regulatory functions, involving 300 separate roles, that are set down in 67 State Acts administered by 31 State Government agencies.
“LGNSW will continue to seek the Government’s commitment to address systemic issues such as cost shifting, which acts as such a significant barrier to the financial sustainability of local government.”