COUNCILS will not be able to charge certain landowners and businesses at higher rates under new guidelines released last Monday.
Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell was given the power last year to overrule councils' discretion to charge some landowners or businesses extra. She said "several councils have employed significant creativity and stretched their differential rates powers to pursue social policy objectives."
Local councils, including Moreland City Council, have put higher rates on electronic gaming venues and used the extra funds to pay for gambling help.
Darebin Council charges landlords of pokies venues more, and charges owners of vacant land more in a bid to encourage development.
Maroondah mayor Nora Lamont said these type of differential rates were not something Maroondah Council had employed in the past. She said slugging certain businesses with higher rates was "not something we'll get involved with anyway".
Yarra Ranges mayor Jim Child said his council was "flying neutral" on the issue. He said differential rates was more of an issue for rural residents in the shire. "Rural constituents have asked, 'Why should we have to pay for footpaths and the like when we don't use them?'," he said. "But what do they do when they come into town, walk around the side? There have been tense discussions in the past when retirement homes have applied for differential [lower] rates but have been knocked back by council."
Municipal Association of Victoria chief executive officer Rob Spence said the draft guidelines could significantly affect a council's ability to charge rates according to the make-up of its local area. He said the guidelines meant commercial rates would not be able to be adjusted by business type; therefore pokies and licensed venues would be considered the same as any other business.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Should councils be able to charge higher rates to certain businesses, like pokies venues? Post a comment below or via Twitter, @MaroondahWeekly.