Residents take to the streets against rate rises

People Before Profit team
Bike ride organisers Markela Panegyres, Pip Hinman and Steffi Leedham. Photo: Peter Boyle

Residents concerned about the Inner West Council’s pending rate rise — the result of the forced amalgamations of three councils — organised a bicycle ride protest in Newtown on February 27.

The inaugural Community Ride For De-Amalgamation and for Open Council tapped a sore issue in the area.

The council’s community engagement found that 76% of people who filled in the online feedback form on the proposed rate changes opposed the proposed new rates structure. In the former Marrickville council area, where rates are set to rise the highest, some people will be paying up to 50% more.

“People are upset because the forced amalgamation of Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield Councils has brought in a less representative Council, poorer services and now proposed higher rates, especially for residents of the former Marrickville Council area,” Pip Hinman, an organiser of the bicycle ride, told Green Left.

“The council’s reported $1.03 billion budget blow-out is driving the rate rises,” Hinman continued. “And they are not the only service fee hikes, either. The sale of council property — or, rather, our property — is theft. The rate rises and outsourcing of council services is the wrong approach.”

“Councils need to be more responsive to residents. Smaller, open and democratic councils are far better equipped to listen and respond to community needs and concerns,” organiser Markela Panegyres told Green Left.

At the limited public hearings into the amalgamation, four years ago, residents overwhelmingly opposed the NSW government plan. At the time, many requested that residents be allowed to vote on the amalgamation proposal.

This could still be done at the next council election on September 4, where council could ask the NSW Electoral Commission to conduct a non-binding poll alongside the council vote. This would be a way of gauging community views on the merger versus more accessible and smaller councils.

The Greens councillors foreshadowed such a plan on March 1, at an extraordinary council meeting. But Labor councillors, along with independents Victor Macri and Pauline Lockie, and Liberal councillor Vittoria Raciti, voted against it. They supported Labor’s motion to write complaint letters to various authorities, while doing nothing.

[Pip Hinman, Markela Panegyres and Steffi Leedham are running on a People Before Profit ticket for Socialist Alliance in Damun ward in the Inner West Council elections. Sign a petition, send a letter calling on the NSW government to reverse the forced amalgamation at the Action Network page and email sydiw@socialist-alliance.org to find out more.]

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