War of words between councils

A war of words over millions in outstanding rates has erupted between Hornsby and Parramatta Council, with one Parramatta Councillor accusing Hornsby of “game” playing.

Hornsby Shire Council has offered to make an interim payment of $9.36m to Parramatta Council earlier this month, for rates collected from Epping and Carlingford, the two suburbs removed from its jurisdiction in the 2016 amalgamation reshuffle.

“These are the collected rates for those suburbs up to 30 June this year, minus fees for the services Hornsby Shire Council provided to those suburbs after they were in the control of Parramatta,” explained Hornsby Mayor Philip Ruddock.

“This figure was paid because it was the easiest to determine, as it was drawn from Council’s audited books.

“It is not the full amount that Parramatta has asked for. Hornsby still owes Parramatta money, but the exact figure cannot be decided until the two councils have had a chance to sit down and negotiate.”

What’s angered the Mayor is that Parramatta Councillor Lorraine Wearne has alleged that Hornsby is deliberately withholding rates data, “as part of Philip Ruddock’s political game”.

She is alleging that Hornsby is going against a state directive to hand over ward data but that has not happened.

“That is simply not true and I am highly offended,” Mayor Ruddock said. “Either Councillor Wearne is poorly informed or she is blatantly lying for political purposes. Whichever it is, she needs to apologise and retract her false statements.”

He added that while Hornsby has wanted to sit around a table and negotiate a final figure, Parramatta has opted for legal action where the only winners will be the lawyers and the losers the ratepayers of both councils.

“This is an issue that should be decided by the representatives of our two communities, instead of wasting ratepayers’ money on lawyers.”

The court action between the two councils is on hold until February, following an application by Hornsby, in the hope that negotiations will continue.

Responding to Ruddock’s statement, a Parramatta Council spokesman said that the“‘City of Parramatta has made every effort to resolve this situation, and after numerous discussions with Hornsby Shire Council since May 2016, was forced to take legal action to recover the money it is owed due to Hornsby’s repeated refusals to enter into discussions in good faith.

“Council will continue to pursue the remaining monies owed in rates and levies collected from Epping residents and businesses by Hornsby since the proclamation of new Local Government boundaries, as well as outstanding Section 96 contributions.

“It’s hoped that mediation will occur between the two councils to resolve all remaining outstanding matters between the Councils.”

Requests for an interview with Councillor Wearne were ignored.

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