CBD rate cut draws Cr’s ire

‘A select few wealthy landlords’

FREMANTLE councillor Ben Lawver has hit out at the council’s plans to raise rates by 6 per cent.

Cr Lawver says it’s not fair that businesses and residents in his and other suburban wards are subsidising a rate cut for “a select few wealthy landlords” in the CBD who’ll be getting a small rate cut.

“My view is that it is fundamentally unfair to give some businesses a reduction in what they pay while other businesses (such as those in Hilton, Samson and O’Connor) and residents have to pick up the slack and pay more,” Cr Lawver said in a newsletter, The Hilton Ward Advocate, this week.

Cr Lawver later told the Herald that while he supported a thriving CBD and didn’t want the council’s services to drop there, businesses in other areas were struggling too and shouldn’t be left out. A number of the shops along O’Connor’s retail strip on South Street have been empty for months.

“According to the city itself, the CBD differential helps to ensure these business make a ‘reasonable contribution toward the higher costs of services and facilities associated with these properties’ and makes a modest contribution toward ‘increased maintenance requirements, transport links, additional costs associated with economic development initiatives and marketing’,” he said.

“Reducing this ‘reasonable contribution’ as proposed because of Covid is offering a permanent solution to what is a temporary problem.

“It rewards landlords with empty shops in our CBD while asking struggling businesses everywhere else to shoulder the cost.”

Cr Lawver said the city could offer the same services it was proposing by adopting a 5 per cent increase across the board.

“In fact, any rate increase about 5 per cent is a direct result of this cost shifting manoeuvre and doesn’t provide additional services above what is already being delivered.

Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge, responding to another complaint about the reduced differential rate, said it was introduced to fund marketing Fremantle as a destination.

“What we’re proposing this year is for the funding of this activity to be spread across all ratepayers, not just paid by CBD businesses,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.

The mayor said the city’s destination marketing campaign also helped businesses in other suburbs such as North Fremantle and South Fremantle.

She argues that reducing the differential rate would give CBD businesses some relief and encourage new businesses to open up in empty shops. She also noted the council had a hardship policy to help people struggling with their rates.

by STEVE GRANT

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