Rates matter of balance, group told

A group calling for lower rates in Dunedin has been told rates affordability needs to be balanced with the increasing costs of delivering core services.

The Reduce Rates Group said it asked Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich and city councillors a series of questions.

One was whether the council had "any understanding of the real hardship out there for many of our community".

"There are many elderly and lower-income citizens who struggle from day to day to make ends meet", the group said.

"Rate increases are another huge burden and worry for them."

A council response was not written by the mayor. It came from council staff.

"The council recognises that rates need to be at an affordable level overall, and that it needs to balance affordability with increasing costs of delivering core services", an unidentified staff member said.

"Residents on low incomes will continue to be encouraged to access the rates rebate scheme offered by central government as a means of offsetting the cost of rates."

The council has proposed a rates increase of 17.5% and signalled a rise in debt of about $118 million in the next year.

Asked about debt levels, the council staff member said this was due to the capital programme the council was delivering, largely in dealing with water, waste and roading.

The group agreed on a series of resolutions at a public meeting last month.

They included asking the council to recognise a high level of concern about the proposed rates increase and debt levels.

The group suggested cutting back, postponing or cancelling non-essential and "enhancement" works and that the council look into staffing levels and contractor and consultant performance.

"Please note also that many of us voted for you due to concerns about over-spending by the previous council", the group told elected representatives during annual plan submissions.

The council is deliberating on submissions this week.