Shire of Kalamunda seeks legal advice over the $15 fee to process rebate

Shire of Kalamunda seeks legal advice over the $15 fee to process rebate

THE Shire of Kalamunda has sought legal advice over the Local Government Minister advising the council to rescind the $15 rebate fee for administration for cheaper pensioner rebates.

Shire President Andrew Waddell said following community feedback and Mr Simpson’s statement the Shire of Kalamunda had sought legal advice on the $15 fee.

Cr Waddell said councillors were aware of the feedback and would review the issue in coming weeks.

Cr Waddell said he wanted to raise the issue of how councils carry costs when more fees are imposed on local government by the state and federal bodies.

“I ask the State Government to seriously assess the impact of continuing to pass on these administrative processing obligations and associated costs, to local government authorities and consequently ratepayers,” he said.

“While the State Government pays the rebates to eligible concession card holders, local governments have always been forced to administer and process the claims.

“How ironic to be called out for ‘ripping off pensioners’ when the State Government this year reduced the pensioner rebate from approximately $1500 for the average property to $750 per property; a near 50 per cent reduction.

“The Government happily continues to push these administrative duties on to local government but offers no contribution or support toward resourcing the service.

“If they provide rate rebates to pensioners, then it stands to reason they should also fund the costs of administering it.”

Cr Waddell said the State Government should not offer a return fee for the burden of administering the emergency services levy and not apply the same rules for administering other rates rebate schemes.

“Instead they insist ratepayers subsidise costs and local governments do all the work,” he said.

“Eligibility conditions for these rebates frequently change, and with our rapidly aging population this responsibility and costs for LGAs and ratepayers will only continue to multiply.”

The Shire has experienced a continual increase in the number of rebate recipients in recent years and the impact of the associated costs has compounded.

About 6000 properties in the Shire access the rebates benefit equating to around 15,500 applications across all rebates that require specialised processing.

The Shire introduced a rebate administration fee following its service review in March after it was asked to identify efficiencies in the budget.

Cr Waddell said to date costs associated with the rebates had been shared among all Shire ratepayers.

“After a review of the significant resources put toward processing these claims (which has compounded in recent years due to the increasing number of residents who are eligible to claim) consideration was given to the fairness of this on all ratepayers, when only some sectors of the community are eligible for the various rebates,” he said.

“A decision was made to shift the costs from all ratepayers and introduce a nominal fee to only those who directly benefit from the rebate program.”

Cr Waddell said prior to endorsement of this year’s fees and charges schedule, advice from the Office of State Revenue confirmed there was nothing that prevented the introduction of a fee.