Unley Council recently endorsed that the Mayor send out a letter with rate notices asking residents to contact their state politicians and ask them to reinstate the concession on rates for Pensioner and Self Funded Retiree. This letter has now gone out and I have received a number of responses.
This post is to say thank you for taking the time to consider this issue and to form your view about the issue of the cutting/reinstating funding of the Pensioner and Self-Funded Retiree Concession Rebates.
For Unley Council, the respective pensioner and self-funded retiree concessions amount to almost $500,000. We have explored the feasibility of Council offering that welfare instead of the state and federal government by cutting $500,000 from our budget and then establishing a new “pensioner rate” and a new “self-funded retiree rate”.
Unfortunately Local Councils do not have the internal ability to identify which of our residents are pensioners or self-funded retirees. That might sound odd when you think about the collective knowledge that governments have on their citizens but when you are talking about coordination between the tiers of Government there is a lot of room for improvement (indeed it is often cited as one of the reasons for removing a tier of Government). I argue that the governance mechanism to enable Councils to know who are the pensioners and who are the self-funded retirees is able to be created but there is no demonstrated will from the State or Federal Governments that shows they will enable this to happen.
Essentially this means the idea of creating two new categories of rates, one for pensioners and the other for self-funded retirees is therefore not going to happen (at least in the short term – although long term it is something I would like to see happen *personal view).
That leaves us with the option of cutting spending by $500,000. Council can do this but the savings in rates will be equally spread across the ratepayer base so that amounts to about a $10 saving for all ratepayers which in and of itself is fantastic but which does very little for the pensioner.
My personal view is that there should be no discount for self-funded retirees.
I do however feel very strongly about the need for our society to do the right thing by pensioners. I’m not going to entertain any debate about how or why it is that some in our society end up after retirement with or without money. The fact is that we have elderly people in our community who are struggling and for whom $200 is a meaningful and important amount of money and I would prefer they had that money rather than any tier of government.
Again I’m not going to enter any debate on the merits of welfare in society other than to say that in an overarching sense Joe Hockey is spot on when he said that we have a culture of entitlement in Australia which is grounded in a welfare mentality too many governments have abused in order to secure votes.
But that said, I don’t think the State Government’s priorities are right when they choose to take the pensioner rate concessions out of the welfare system.
On occasions our job as a Council is to stand up to State or Federal Governments and whilst we can’t do that on a lot of issues because our role is roads, rates, rubbish, libraries, community centres and parks, on this issue we do have a responsibility to get involved because it affects a large group in our community’s ability to pay their rates.
I have written a couple of pieces which are related to this topic which can provide some further information on the topic if you are interested:
I also encourage you to visit the Local government Association of SA (LGASA) website which has further information about this topic:
I hope at least some of this information is of use to you and I’m happy to meet with you or any of your neighbours to discuss further should you wish to further shape my thinking on this issue.