Queanbeyan-Palerang’s next council will confront some tough choices as it works to balance the books.

The parlous state of Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council’s (QPRC) finances became apparent at the Planning and Strategy Committee meeting on 13 October when the council was asked to endorse a new long-term financial plan that flagged rate rises totalling 27.8% over three years and flagged more to come.

Staff had recommended council seek approval from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for a special rate variation (SRV) that would have increased rates by a total of 27.8% (including the annual rate peg rise) over three years from July 2022. Applications need to be lodged with IPART by November, followed by community consultation, for rises to apply in 2022-23.

The SRV was included in a plan that Chief Executive Officer Peter Tegart said had to be lodged with the NSW Treasury by November as a condition of loan agreements. Outgoing Mayor Tim Overall proposed that council submit the plan, noting the SRVs would not be pursued, and take a closer look at other options to cut spending and increase revenue.

Greens Cr Peter Marshall told the meeting that the problem was not one-off disasters like the floods and bushfires but a long-term structural deficit as a result of infrastructure spending and grants. New assets had to be maintained and depreciated.

He said Council should stop accepting grants that required matching loans for projects that were not priorities, citing the $15.5 M upgrade of a section of Monaro St in Queanbeyan as an example.

It is essential that the next council conduct a thorough review of spending and revenue measures to avoid the need for hefty rate rises that will hurt those least able to pay at a time when people including small business owners are still getting on their feet after the impact of the bushfires and COVID-19. Council’s rating system, fees and charges need to be fair and sustainable. Greens on QPRC will work to ensure this is the case.

Authorised by Sylvia Hale for The Greens NSW, Suite D, 263-279 Broadway, GLEBE NSW 2037.