Premier Daniel Andrews first promised a review of Victoria's rating system on November 6, 2018. Finally, last week, Premier Andrews and Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek (pictured) announced a timeline and terms of reference of the rating review.
It has taken five long months for any action on this promise, and now we discover that the final report will not be released until March 2020. How much longer after the release of the report until we actually have changes implemented to balance the burden of rates for rural ratepayers?
Farmers have experienced rate increases of more than 50 per cent in recent years. Farmers absolutely want to contribute to their local communities, but they should not be underpinning the council's operations, particularly when many of them do not receive the same council services provided to townsfolk.
Farmers across Victoria are trying to make ends meet after a number of very challenging seasons, and many cannot afford to pay their exorbitant rates bills. Yet, there may be two or more years of rates bills in the letterbox before we have real change. So, in the interests of fairness and equity, the Minister for Local Government must implement a freeze on rural rate increases while the review is finalised.
We were also concerned to read in the terms of reference for the review that the rates cap, land valuations, taxation and other local government funding sources have been excluded from this review. How can this review contribute to the development of a sustainable local government funding model without considering these fundamental elements?
The VFF will be closely monitoring the progress of the rates review to ensure the panel engages with rural and regional ratepayers, and delivers real change for ratepayers.
- David Jochinke, VFF president