Media Release - NSW Seniors deserve a fully-funded rate rebate

4 April 2018

Pensioner concessions on council rates must be simultaneously increased to more realistic levels and fully funded by the NSW Government, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said today.

LGNSW President Linda Scott issued the call at the commencement of the NSW Seniors Festival, which runs from 4-15 April.

Under the current scheme, eligible seniors receive a discount on their combined ordinary council rates and waste service charges, up to a maximum of $250 per annum.

The NSW Government funds roughly 55% of the annual $78.5 million concession cost, with councils left to fund the remaining 45%.

“NSW is the only state in which pensioner concessions on rates are not fully funded by the State Government,” Clr Scott said.

 “Local government has to absorb the remaining cost to the tune of around $64 million each year, with some councils being asked to forgo up to $1 million in rates revenue.

“Make no mistake: local government supports these concessions for pensioners.

“As a peak body we pushed hard at the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Rating Review for the concession to be simultaneously increased and fully-funded, but have heard nothing from the NSW Government since IPART reported back to the Government in December 2016.”

Clr Scott said welfare and income support were a matter for State and Federal Governments.

“To ask councils to bear this burden is yet another form of cost-shifting, and it impacts on the level and range of services councils can deliver,” she said.

“Local government has a limited revenue base and it is unfair that councils should be required to fund this form of welfare assistance,” Clr Scott said.

 “Costs of pensioner concessions are also inequitably distributed among councils, with councils in many coastal areas, regional areas and some established suburbs experiencing a higher concentration of pensioners.

“Those who qualify for rebates are also disproportionately represented in low-income areas where there is a high demand for council services but limited revenue-raising capacity.”

Clr Scott said IPART had found contribution to the scheme was as high as three per cent of rates income in some council areas.

“The cost of mandatory pensioner rebates is a rapidly growing burden for many councils, and many will not be able to afford further increases in the funding they have to provide for pensioner rate rebates,” she said.

“It’s particularly disappointing that the State Government can boast of a significant budget surplus and splash cash on stadiums, but refuse to fully fund the Pensioner Rates Concession.

“If the Berejiklian Government really cares about our Seniors, they should do the right thing and pick up the same share of the bill as every other Australian state.”

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