Victorian government hands final invoice for rates Commission of Inquiry to Ararat Rural City Council

ARARAT Rural City Council has been handed the final invoice for costs associated with the state government’s inquiry into a plan to abolish differential rates.

Councillors were told during Tuesday night’s ordinary meeting that Ararat Rural City had recently received an invoice from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning for the Commission of Inquiry.

The total amount was $87,160.31.

Cr Jo Armstrong said Ararat Rural City had "gotten off very lightly" and she was "grateful" to the state government for asking the council to pay that amount.

Deputy mayor Glenda McLean suggested during a council meeting in August that Ararat Rural City could have been liable for $1 million in costs.

The cost of the inquiry will be paid under delegation by Ararat Rural City’s chief executive. 

“The costs will be included as a budget overrun in the Quarterly Finance Report, which will be presented to council at its February 2018 council meeting,” a report to councillors stated.

In June, Victorian Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins ordered a commission of inquiry into Ararat Rural City’s proposal to abolish differential council rates.

The proposal would have offered a discount to industrial, commercial and residential property owners, but removed a 45 per cent discount for farm properties.

Ms Hutchins said the proposal was ‘extreme’ and tasked the inquiry with investigating the proposal, the community consultation behind it, and other governance issues.

The Victorian Farmers Federation launched a campaign against the changes, drawing hundreds of primary producers to council meetings.

After holding public and private hearings in Ararat, the inquiry report stated that “The Commission orders pursuant to section 214(3) of the Local Government Act 1989 that Ararat Rural City Council pay all of the costs of the Commission of Inquiry”.

Following the report’s recommendations, Ms Hutchins appointed a municipal monitor to Ararat Rural City and strongly urged councilors to revert to the previous rates structure, which they did.

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