A new State Government report has revealed Somerset Regional Council’s rates are the lowest in Southeast Queensland.
A new State Government report has revealed Somerset Regional Council’s rates are the lowest in Southeast Queensland.

Council’s rates amid lowest in region for third year running

RESIDENTS in the Somerset Council area enjoy the lowest rates in the region, but for some, this still isn’t enough.

A new State Government report released last week has confirmed council’s average residential rates and charges for 2019/2020 are the cheapest in the area.

Somerset mayor Graeme Lehmann welcomed the report, which continues a trend seen in both 2018 and again in 2019.

“This confirms what we already knew – average residential rates and charges in Esk, Fernvale, Kilcoy, Lowood and Toogoolawah are the cheapest in Southeast Queensland,” he said.

“We know that household budgets are under strain and our point of difference with other areas is in our vision and delivery of affordable rates and effective services.

“Our philosophy has always been to find practical solutions for providing services and to look to revenue sources other than rates where possible.”

Prominent Somerset community member Paul Heymans, however, said he felt council should be doing more to support the community during the current emergency.

He has started a Change.org petition calling for council to slash the rates for 2020 by 50 per cent.

“With approximately $60 million in the bank, Somerset Council has a fair sized safety net that can be deployed for the benefit of our community in times of crisis,” he said.

“A 50 per cent discount on our rates would be one effective and practical way that Somerset Council can help support our community. The cost will be approximately $6.5 million.”

He acknowledged the reduction might have long-term consequences for council, but argued it was necessary to help support the local community.

“I contacted the owners of several large and small businesses in our region. All have seen a sharp decline in trade since the COVID-19 lockdown. Some may not survive,” Mr Heymans said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting real hardship on our local community. It will take years for our local economy to recover.”

He made a similar push on Facebook prior to the election, which council responded to by delaying the due dates for rates.

“Council anticipated there would be requests for a moratorium on rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and unanimously resolved at a special meeting on March 25 to delay the rates to May 28,” Cr Lehmann said at the time.

“This date is a full three months after rates were issued on February 25. Council has already received a large number of payments, including during all of the past two weeks. In most other council areas, rates would already be due.”

At the time of writing, Mr Heymans’ petition has gained 52 signatures.

The State Government report comparing rates can be found on the Department of Local Government website.