A group of residents in the Shire of Lake Grace is campaigning for specified area rates to be brought back into their communities. The SARs allow a local government to divide a shire into areas with separate rates based on capital works and services. Under the SARs concept, only the ratepayers using certain services are paying for them, rather than the entire shire. Up until about one year ago, the Shire had SARs across four areas — Varley, Lake King, Newdegate, and Lake Grace. The SARs were removed in 2019 when then chief executive Denise Gobbart engaged consultants Moore Stephens to undertake a strategic rate review as endorsed by the council. At the time, councillors attended two workshops with Moore Stephens, where it was found that the SARs did not meet the requirements of the Local Government Act. Newdegate resident Rusty Lee is a driving force in the group seeking to bring the Recreation and Culture SARs back for the 2020-21 financial year. He was a councillor at the time the SARs concept was introduced and he said it worked well for the town. He claimed residents were not consulted before it was taken away. With big distances between some of the communities in the shire, Mr Lee said SARs gave ratepayers control of what happened in their community. “I have been campaigning ever since the day it was taken off,” he said. “What it did was give true democracy to each community to allow for them to say yes or no that they wanted those facilities, bearing in mind that the facility they put in might not be used by any other SARs. “The (implementation of the rate) was to allow for the Shire to then have better control and equity within the shire.” The issue was addressed at last month’s June council meeting. Councillors voted unanimously to request legal advice from McLeods Barristers and Solicitors regarding the imposition of SARs. No legal advice was sought after the resolution from Moore Stephens. Councillors resolved that Shire administration should request a copy of the Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries’ letter regarding SARs, and seek advice from McLeods Barristers and Solicitors to align the Shire’s SARs with the Local Government Act. They also endorsed the investigation of an alternative to SARs.