MOVES to implement differential rates at Brimbank pokies venues have been quashed by the state government.
Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell last week announced new guidelines for the use of differential rates.
The changes allow differential rates for general land, residential, farm land, commercial land, industrial land, retirement village land, vacant and derelict land. But there will be will be restrictions on the application of differentials for pokies venues, casinos, liquor licensed venues or liquor outlet premises and fast food outlets.
“The guidelines make it clear that the use of differential rates by councils to pursue controversial social policy agendas is not appropriate,” she said.
The review was sparked by growing concern about the use of differential rates by some councils.
Last July, Brimbank Council flagged the introduction of differential rates for gaming venues to increase funding for programs to help problem gamblers. The 2012-13 council budget had outlined rates on pokie venues double those levied on commercial and industrial properties.
Brimbank has Victoria’s highest level of gambling losses with more than $145.6 million spent on gaming machines last financial year.
Monash University lecturer Dr Charles Livingstone said higher rates for pokies venues could have their place provided money raised went to appropriate services. He said poker machines had a considerable impact on communities and council-supported services. “They are diverting expenditure away from the kind of activities councils are trying to encourage and impact upon the kinds of services working with councils to alleviate poverty.”
Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said the new guidelines were politically motivated and a “direct assault” on the autonomy of councils to make decisions about equitable rates for communities. The MAV will seek legal advice once the guidelines become publicly available.
Brimbank Council said it was awaiting the official release of the guidelines but was committed to ensuring residents had access to state funded support and counselling services. —With Benjamin Millar