Rates questioned

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Penrith businesses are questioning whether they are receiving value for money after a report by the NSW Government showed that Council rates for businesses are high compared to other councils.

The Division of Local Government published its annual comparison of Councils last week, which found that for 2012/13 the average business rate charged by Council was $5992.59.

Penrith is considered to be comparable to Blue Mountains, Wyong, Campbelltown, the Hills, Gosford, Hornsby and Liverpool Councils, which on average charge $3,723.

But businesses in the Hills pay on average $1,849 per year in Council rates and Hornsby businesses pay $2,781.

Liverpool businesses come closest to Penrith, paying on average $5,740 per year in Council rates.

Peter McGhee, President of the Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce, said that it can be difficult to compare Councils as each are very different.

“The Chamber has not had any complaints from its members with regards to Council rates,” he said.

“That would indicate they don’t seem to be overly concerned by the current levels.

“There are some sectors that are more affected by price rises [generally], such as retail, which is why we are seeing strip shopping struggling, not just here in Penrith but other places such as Paddington and the inner city.”

A deeper analysis of business rates shows that Penrith Council also charges more per dollar of land value.

Businesses in the Penrith CBD are charged an ad valorem rate of 0.88 cents in the dollar of land value. St Marys CBD is even more costly at 1.19 cents in the dollar.

By comparison, businesses in the Hornsby CBD pay just 0.005 cents in the dollar and just 0.01 cents in Liverpool CBD.

The Blue Mountains is on par with Penrith however, charging 0.87 cents in the dollar.

High Street landlord Edwin Dobson said he is not convinced Penrith Council rates paid by businesses are spent appropriately.

“With residential rates, I can see the money goes towards bin collection, water and so on, but what benefits do businesses receive,” he asked.

“What we really need is more parking, but Council keeps reducing the time limits on parking, which only affects our customers.

“We really need a second multi-level car park for the CBD, rates could be directed to a project such as that.”

A spokesperson for Penrith Council said the average business rate for Penrith is distorted by the diverse range of business properties in the city from small retail strips to large businesses on big parcels of land in business parks.

“A comparison with other LGAs is also problematic as they have different business diversity to us,” Council said.

“A typical High Street property having rates of $2,070 for 2014-15 actually paid $2,240 10 years ago in 2004.

“The business rates paid by CBD property owners is used to fund many things including the Penrith CBD Corporation and St Marys Town Centre Limited and upgrades to things such as Memory park and the installation of street furniture, pavement and so forth.”

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