The Liberal NSW Government in 2016 voted to amalgamate several councils across NSW for cost efficiencies.
3 old councils merged together: Pittwater, Warringah and Manly.
The NSW Government at the time mandated that for every plot of land with the same value in the new amalgamated councils, the rates paid by the residents in the same council should be the same.
This would come into effect by 1st July, 2020 at the latest, they laid into law in 2016.
What did this mean for the Northern Beaches?
Like most issues on Council, rates harmonisation is complex and requires thought, data and analysis.
Councillor Sarah Grattan, who is also the Chief Operating Officer of Unicef Australia, is well placed to explain the complexity due to her strong business, financial and legal background as well as her position on the Finance, Risk and Audit committee at Council.
Here is a video on the detail of how rates are calculated.
Land Value (Set by the NSW Valuer General)
Inflation (Set by the Independent Pricing And Regulatory Tribunal)
Majority decision of Council (Not just the Mayor)
So when 23 March 2021 arrived and council had to vote on how to 'harmonise' or make the rates equal across the whole Northern Beaches Council, they had to do this for residents:
This meant an increase for Manly and there were a lot of financial and asset management issues going on in that old Council. We've recorded a video explainer here so that anyone who wants the detail, can get it! Here is a video discussing Old Manly Council's financial state and the impact on residents in 2021.
Finally, for sitting councillors who are not economists and should also really know this protocol but perhaps they don't because they decided to be absent and not vote on whether to phase in the increase for Manly residents right in the middle of covid.....
What did this mean for Manly?
At amalgamation, Manly had a $66 million debt and their rates were lower than any of the 3 councils. They needed to be increased so every land owner on the beaches paid the same rates. All the Manly Councillors wanted to gradually increase the rates for the people of Manly so there was not a big jump in their rates, impacting them during 2020 or 2021. However, the other out-of-Manly Councillors wanted to hurry in the savings (remember the see-saw of those getting a decrease) for the old Pittwater and Warringah areas and not phase in the changes.
The swift rates increase in Manly was was due to the swift decrease wanted by Warringah and Pittwater.
Every Manly Councillor, Sarah Grattan and Candy Bingham and Pat Daley wanted to make the transition gradual but they were outvoted.
Here is the voting record for those who decided FOR to stagger the rates increase for Manly and AGAINST to rush in the savings for Pittwater and Warringah. Interestingly, the two councillors most vocal about rates declined to participate that day.
Importantly, the rises over the 5 years were never more than inflation.
Manly council didn't raise interest rates to cover their ever-increasing debts for 5 years. Then Northern Beaches Council amalgamated and the catch up rate was a bit of a jump. Over 5 years, the average annual growth rate has been 2.4% for the non-Manly areas and 2.9% for Manly.
Old Manly Council had a lot of debt but lowered rates in 17/18. It resulted in poor financial management. When NSW government mandated 'Harmonisation' Manly residents had to normalise to the NB average.
If only the other councillors had voted on a gradual increase this would have been easier on Manly. We thank Cr Daley, Cr Bingham and Cr Grattan for trying to protect Manly residents.
And we hope all the other residents, the 76% of the whole Northern Beaches, have enjoyed their reduction in rates due to amalgamation.
Want more info about the waste service that is included in your rates notices?
Depending on your old Council’s service contract with their supplier, your waste standard charge has changed.
Want to know more?
You can ask Councillor Sarah Grattan who is on council's finance, audit and risk committee and has pored over the financials of all of the old councils and the current one.
She assures us that Council is the 4th largest council in the state and is doing comparably well.
or you can ask firstname.lastname@example.org for the council papers, your individual property history over 5-10 years and facts on the reduction in rates for 76% of residents.
Don't believe the 3 word slogans. Independently verify the truth.