Council to defend differential rates

BALLARAT City Council could be forced to defend its two differential rates, including its controversial gaming rate.

It follows a move by Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell to set up new guidelines to cut down on inconsistent differential rating.

Across Victoria, differential rates have been used on premises with liquor licences, fast food restaurants and even retirement villages to impose higher rates based on land use.

Ballarat’s gaming rate charges venues with poker machines 16 per cent higher rates than other commercial premises.

The council’s chief executive officer Anthony Schinck said Ballarat had previously limited its differential rates.

“We’ve always tried to keep it as simple as possible, sticking with our major ratings,” Mr Schinck said.

He also said Ballarat would take part in sector-wide discussions to help form the new guidelines.

Ms Powell said councils currently had insufficient guidance around differential rates.

“The changes made to the Local Government Act 1989 in respect to differential rates were in response to community concerns about councils’ use of differential rating powers,” Ms Powell said.

“I think it’s important to establish consistent principles to guide councils in the use of differential rates.”

A ministerial committee has been set up to review the guidelines, with consultation to take place in January and February.

fiona.henderson@thecourier.com.au

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