Inadequate response for Rate Payer for Port Stephens Special Rate Variation



Dear News Of The Area,

RECENTLY I emailed some questions to Port Stephens Council in order to present a factual argument and perhaps a viable alternative to their proposed 66% Special Rate Variation (SRV).

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While the young lady I was dealing with provided answers to my questions, I believe she had been directed to structure them in a format intended to be scant and less than clear.

Having suffered with dyslexia all my life, I found the answers very confusing. Even my wife is unable to interpret or identify any facts from the answers.

As a result I went back to Council identifying my dyslexia and concerns and asked for the answers to be put into “Plain English”, which is one of the affirmations of the Councils “Customer Service Charter”.

The response I received from the Mayor’s and General Manager’s Office has left me feeling belittled and somewhat of a lesser person.

To quote their response, “The other questions you have raised have been dealt with in previous emails and I do not propose to go back over that ground”.

Evidently, if you don’t understand something provided by our Council that is your fault for not being intelligent enough to understand what they consider, “Plain English”.

It is not their business nor desire, it would seem, to ensure individuals understand the information or supporting evidence they provide. I find this attitude completely unacceptable.

How many individuals are disadvantaged because they have a disability or don’t comprehend English that well?

For example, if I ask, “How many companies quarrying sand and other minerals in the Local Government Area (LGA) are paying the Council money to maintain the haul roads they use, including which roads these are?”

It shouldn’t be that hard to tell me.

Rather, the actual response, which was:

“Haulage fees: As previously outlined, these fees are collected for use on specific roads as determined by each Development Application consent. They can only be used for the maintenance and upkeep of roads detailed in the consents. Council cannot use these funds for other purposes, hence the amount shown in a reserve.”

All I would like is to be provided with simple and clear answers so I’m confident that I understand the information provided. Simple and clear answers will reassure me that my rates and those of the greater Port Stephens community are being raised and spent in a way which ensures the absolute best value for our public money.

Bill Doran

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