When IPART allowed Central Coast Council to increase water rates this financial year, it said that typical bills would represent about 1.8% of a typical Central Coast household’s income.
But IPART found that the percentage increase to pensioner bills was higher compared to other groups of customers – even though the total bill would be lower.
For pensioners living alone it could be about 3.6 per cent.
For typical households living in units it was estimated at about 1.5 % of typical household income.
“We recognise that for some households, the bill impacts could be more or less than our analysis indicates, depending on their specific household characteristics, water usage and income,” IPART said.
“For example, for a pensioner who lives alone, bills could be around 3.6% of their income.
“Because of this, we recommend that the NSW government review pensioner concessions and consider whether these remain appropriate,” IPART said.
This includes the legislative framework that sets out the pensioner concession CCC Water – and other water authorities – can provide.
Council’s website shows that Council will pay up to a $43.75 per quarter to a maximum annual rebate of $175 per year on water rates for pensioners.
To help some customers pay their bills, IPART also recommended that CCC Water works with the community to assist with water conservation.
IPART used figures based on what was then the latest census data from 2016.
It showed that 27.1% of the Central Coast population was aged over 60, reflecting a higher percentage of those aged over 60 than in Greater Sydney which was 19%.
IPART said this might contribute to a higher proportion of those on the age pension.
“We note however that CCC Water includes in its scope for pensioners other groups that hold concession cards that are not necessarily age pension recipients, e.g. disability pension recipients,” IPART said.
“We recognise that for some customers, the price increases would still be large and that resulting bill increases may lead to affordability concerns among the community.
“We are concerned about the impact of price increases on those with limited income.”
To help customers with paying their bills, CCC Water provides assistance such as payment plans.
IPART recommended that CCC Water promote its assistance programs such as payment plans, as well as considering how to better target assistance to those who need it.
Council Watch has asked the State Government if it will accept the IPART recommendation to review pensioner concessions.
The IPART decision ran into several hundred pages of reports. See previous stories here.