Staff pay pushes Freo rates up 6%

Freo mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge.

Back-to-basics budget

FREMANTLE ratepayers look set to get an average $120 added to their rates bill this year.

The council’s finance and policy committee gave the nod to a 6 per cent rate rise on Wednesday, which will need endorsement from the full council at the end of this month before being advertised.

The council is looking at ditching its contentious “vomit tax” on the city’s three nightclubs, as well as slightly reducing the rates for commercial properties in an effort to kickstart the local economy.

While that will cost around $240,000 in lost rates, the 6 per cent rate rise will reap an additional $1.1m which mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said is needed to keep maintaining the city’s assets and give staff a long-awaited pay rise.

“We have to acknowledge they came to the party through Covid, with the executive accepting a 20 per cent pay cut,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.

“For the last few years we have not given any raise for staff and we want to retain good staff.”

Ms Fitzhardinge said a new enterprise bargaining agreement was in the early stages of discussions and it was too early to start putting a figure on how much the pay rises would cost the city.

The mayor said it would be “very disappointing” if commercial landlords pocketed their windfall rather than passing it onto their tenants, saying it would be in “everyone’s best interest” if business in the city could flourish.

She said the nightclub’s had rightly argued that they paid the vomit tax while patrons from other businesses contributed to the clean-up bill at the end of the night, saying the tax was a “once upon a time” initiative no longer reflective of where Freo was now at.

Vomit tax

“Nobody likes a rate rise but we are determined to tackle challenges that, if left alone, will only become bigger and become more expensive problems down the track,” Ms Fitzhardinge said. 

“We all love living in a historic and heritage city, but that means we leave huge problems for future generations if we don’t keep up with maintaining our assets.

“At the same time, our budget is being designed to deliver maximum value in the places where it’s needed most – our parks, playgrounds, footpaths and roads.”

Ms Fitzhardinge said with the rising costs of construction, goods and services, the city had focused on looking at what it could deliver in-house, such as fixing up the numerous bumpy footpaths.

She said it was useful doing a “back to basics” budget so soon after an election, as they’d tapped into feedback councillors received while doorknocking to come up with a list of “small local projects”.

“That can include things in the parks, signage; they’re small things, but they can be an annoyance if they’re not dealt with,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.

The city also revealed its new destination marketing campaign to businesses this week, with Ms Fitzhardinge saying the city was ready to welcome back interstate and international visitors “with open arms”.

“The return of tourism, including cruise ships later this year, will provide a welcome boost for all our businesses and has flow-on benefit throughout our community,” she said.

by STEVE GRANT

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