OUR SAY: Household budgets feel the pinch as rates come under spotlight

ORANGE councillors may be facing the same tough decisions as the Abbott government as they consider how the city can live within its means as the next budget is drawn up.

The maximum general rate increase for all councils has already been set at 2.6 per cent but as anyone who pays other council charges knows, these bills are starting to add up.

What with water consumption charges, sewer charges and garbage charges, including the green waste fee, all seeing a substantial increase last year, the general rate cap is no guarantee residents won’t feel more pressure on their household budgets.

It would be very disheartening for those watching their water consumption, for example, if their cost savings from reducing consumption were eaten up by higher charges.

Like consumers of gas and electricity who see their year-on-year energy consumption fall only to have their energy bills go up regardless, residential ratepayers seem at times powerless to have any control over the cost of running a house in Orange.

NO INCREASE FITS THE BILL FOR RATEPAYERS

For the council it is an enormous dilemma, made more difficult because so many costs of councils these days come from fulfilling duties and providing services passed like a hot potato from the state government.

Councillors will be guided by staff on what level of charges are needed to keep city services running smoothly and well maintained, but they should also be listening to residents who are feeling the pinch.

The easy answer is to say these cost increases are necessary but residents under financial pressure are entitled to ask for more scrutiny. In the current climate it is time for councillors to go through the draft budget line by line and ask if every item is necessary. 

That should not just apply to the administrative costs of council but to every expense and outgoing, including community grants and funding and all services council provides, particularly those of a less essential nature.

Residents will be open to a little austerity from council but they will expect to see council rates and charges grow more slowly as a result. 

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