Inverell Shire Councillor Mal Peters adjourned the notice of motion for a proposed special rates variation in 2017/18 after “informal discussions at the afternoon tea table” on Wednesday, April 26.
Inverell Mayor Paul Harmon said Cr Peters was given information to a question he asked before the council meeting and chose not to raise the motion.
“In some informal discussions around the afternoon tea table, Cr Peters was given some information to a question he asked, which addressed the issues that he had in regards to his notice of motion,” Mr Harmon said after the Inverell Shire Council’s general meeting on Wednesday.
“His questions were answered in that session this afternoon.”
In December 2016, a phone survey commissioned by council was conducted by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). The survey reportedly found 60 percent of the 300 respondents phoned said they would support an adjustment to rates in Inverell.
But a poll published by the Times in March found overwhelmingly respondents were against raising rates. The poll registered 110 votes on Wednesday, with more than 90 percent against the adjustment.
Residents took to social media to register their outrage at the results. One resident, Sharron Thomas, complained that the callers had contacted her “repeatedly”.
“I wonder who was called? I don't know of anyone who said they were,” Cathy Groen Stevens wrote on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.
“Me, repeatedly,” Thomas wrote shortly after, and then in a series of replies posted: “My house repeatedly and my husband repeatedly.”
Thomas posted that she “definitely didn’t” support the rates variation and “only answered one questionnaire”.
“The survey, of course, we got a bit of a caning over that because the survey ran over the Christmas period,” Mr Harmon said after the council meeting.
“It was all in relation to the timing of when we needed to have our submission to IPART. We had to have our submission to IPART by mid-February.
“So, we had to have an extraordinary council meeting in early February to vote for or against submitting a special rate variation.”
Mr Harmon defended the timing of the phone survey and said it was conducted “at arm’s length” from council, which he said was appropriate.
“Unfortunately, the survey was conducted over the Christmas period. But in saying that not everyone goes away over the Christmas period,"Mayor Paul Harmon
“Traditionally, some people do, but a lot of people don't now. We have a changing economy, so not everyone goes away.
“I was fairly comfortable with the results that came back from the survey and the target market that they actually reached.”
Mr Harmon admitted that if he asked residents if they would want to pay more in rates, he would expect them to disagree, but said that the adjustment was important to maintain council services in Inverell.
“The question I always ask is: the current service levels we have; we actually cannot keep maintaining those on the funds we have available. So, do you want to see a decrease in services or are you prepared to pay a little bit more to maintain what we have?” Mr Harmon said.
“Then people say they don't want to see a decrease in services and ask what we are doing.”
Mr Harmon said the results of the survey would stand council “in good stead” in the outcome of its application for a special rates variation.
“I give credit to our citizens of Inverell,” he said.
“They realise, and they can see that council is providing a lot of good services and a lot of good infrastructures and that we are not just wasting money or that nothing is getting done.
“They can see that if they want to keep that standard up, they are prepared to pay some more.”