ZERO RATES RISE: Councillor Helen Blackburn says services won’t suffer under her plan.
ZERO RATES RISE: Councillor Helen Blackburn says services won’t suffer under her plan.

MAYORAL ELECTION: Blackburn promises zero rates rise

BUNDABERG mayoral candidate Helen Blackburn has dropped the first bombshell of the election, promising a zero per cent rate rise if she's elected.

She also announced she wanted to ditch a $50 annual levy imposed under last year's council budget, which included a rate rise of 1.8 per cent - the lowest since amalgamation in 2008.

Cr Blackburn said cost-of-living pressure remained a major concern for the region's residents.

"Next year I want council to take less of your hard-earned money which means you'll be able to put it towards anything from paying bills to going out and to a local restaurant and supporting our community," Cr Blackburn said.

"I know that keeping more of your own money will be better for supporting jobs in the Bundy region than another unnecessary rate rise."

Cr Blackburn said she would deliver on the promise by driving efficiency and demonstrating fiscal responsibility.

"Delivering a zero per cent rate increase is only the first part of relieving financial pressures on our community," she said.

Mayor Jack Dempsey said he was focussed on getting on with the job of being mayor.

"I'm proud that as a united council team we had the lowest ever rate rises in the history of Bundaberg Regional Council while delivering extensive capital works," Cr Dempsey said.

Cr Dempsey said he would be releasing his election platform when the campaign officially started on February 22.

Cr Blackburn said she also wanted to put money back in ratepayers' pockets by ditching the controversial Community and Environment Levy.

"This term council implemented a Community and Environment Levy equivalent to an average 1.5 per cent rate increase on top of rates increases and as part of my relief plan, I will seek to abolish this levy," she said.

Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam issued a warning following Cr Blackburn's announcement yesterday.

"Candidates should be wary of promising to freeze rates and charges because it could prove unsustainable and may impact on the delivery of infrastructure and services into the future," Mr Hallam said.

"Our regular community sentiment surveys show people place value for money higher than the actual cost of rates."

But in her media statement yesterday Cr Blackburn disagreed.

"Council can continue to provide high standard services, facilities and key infrastructure projects to service the needs of the community without a rate increase and the Community and Environment levy," she said.

The Division 4 councillor said her rate relief plan was just the beginning of what she would deliver if elected mayor on March 28.

"If elected I have plans to stimulate our economy and help bring more investment and jobs to the region," she said

"I will deliver a fresh approach for the people of the Bundaberg region giving our community the support it needs."

Kirt Anthony, who last week announced he would be running for mayor, last night told the NewsMail: "I don't know why are rates have been going up in the first place."



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