The Department of Local Government has backed down on its request for the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to reconsider public submissions regarding a proposed five per cent rate increase.
The shire had previously refused to consider any of the 394 submissions it received opposing the increase, despite the Local Government Act requiring all submissions be considered before rates can be imposed.
Earlier this month the department contacted the shire advising it needed to reconsider the submissions.
The department had expected this would be done at the next council meeting on July 25.
But this week a department spokeswoman confirmed this would no longer need to be done because the shire had proved the submissions had been considered.
“The shire has provided information to the Department of Local Government and Communities, which demonstrates that it has properly considered the complaints raised in the submissions,” she said.
“A flyer has been prepared which will go to all ratepayers explaining the need for the rate increase.
“It is expected that this will be endorsed by council at their next meeting.”
She also denied the shire had breached the Act by failing to consider the submissions because the shire had not yet adopted its budget.
“Local governments are required to consider submissions made on their rating strategy prior to adopting their budget,” she said.
“As the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale has not yet adopted its budget, there is no breach of the Local Government Act.”
The issue arose in June after the council considered its rating strategy for rating categories ‘residential vacant land’ and ‘intensive farmland’ but dismissed comments from ratepayers in other categories such as ‘residential’ or ‘rural’ .
This was despite advertising public comment for all rates in May.
At the time shire president John Erren said submissions for other rating categories would not be considered because it ‘is not a requirement under the Local Government Act when considering differential rates’.
The department initially disagreed, with a spokeswoman saying all submissions regarding rates should have been considered.
“A local government is required by the Local Government Act to advertise all rates when they are applying these differentially,” she said.
“They are required to invite submissions from electors and ratepayers on the proposed rates or minimum payments or any related matters.
“The local government is required to consider any submissions received before imposing the proposed rates with or without modification.
“The local government must give proper consideration to every submission received on any category.
“This cannot be confined to certain categories or certain ratepayers or electors.”
This week Mr Erren said rates had not been confirmed at this stage as it would form part of the budget.
He said a special council meeting would be scheduled for sometime next week though the date was yet to be finalised.
He said he had received legal advice on the matter.
Neither the department nor Mr Erren stated when the shire considered all submissions.