A MERGER between Shoalhaven City and Kiama councils would result in much higher rates and should be opposed, according to Cr Andrew Guile.
Cr Guile was responding to comments made on radio last week by Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash, who said any merger between the two councils should happen sooner rather later.
Cr Gash was referring to the final report of the independent Local Government Review Panel, which said in the event of any future council amalgamations on the South Coast, Kiama would make a better partner for Shoalhaven than Shellharbour or Wollongong. The report effectively ruled out such an amalgamation in the short or medium term.
Cr Guile claimed Cr Gash’s comments were “causing great concern amongst Shoalhaven ratepayers with Kiama Council charging hundreds of dollars more for basic services”.
“There is more than $300 difference in average rates between the two local government areas so even if we met somewhere in the middle, any merger represents a massive increase in residential rates over and above this year’s 8 per cent increase.
“People on fixed incomes in our community are already hurting from council rates and charges and to hit them again shows a lack of understanding and compassion of the circumstances of many local families,” he said.
Cr Guile said Shoalhaven was one of the top three local government areas for pensioner rate rebates in NSW and a merger would provide no comfort for people on fixed incomes.
“It has been many years since the NSW government increased the $250 pensioner rate rebate during which time council rate increases have seen payments more than double,” he said.
Cr Guile foreshadowed a motion at the January 28 council meeting to oppose any mergers and impose a freeze on further rate increases during the council’s current term.
Cr Gash accused Cr Guile of scaremongering.
“Where does he get this information? There has been no research. The fact is Kiama is a much richer council.
“I went through amalgamation in the Bowral, Mittagong and Moss Vale days almost 40 years ago when they were merged to become Wingecarribee council and I saw there was angst initially but in the long run it was a much better proposition.
“I’m not going to comment on a hypothetical. I merely made a comment that if there was to be amalgamation and by sharing of equipment of services and equipment there are ways of saving money, then I would be for it.”
She said council had no intention of lifting rates.