What are Special Variations

A council can apply to IPART for a Special Variation to the rate peg which will be considered against the guidelines set by the NSW Office of Local Government, including the level of community awareness and how efficiently the council has been managing its finances. Council requests for Special Variations are often in order to develop or maintain essential community services or regional projects. IPART can grant a general income variation for a single year or up to seven years. Over that time the council can set its own rates and fees as long as its total general income from those sources stays within the agreed increase.

How can the community engage with IPART?

Special Variation and Minimum Rates review page for 2024-25 is available here. We will publish the Special Variation and Minimum Rates applications on our website in late-February 2024. Members of the community will then be able to view and make comment on the proposals in the applications. A fact sheet on how the community can engage with the 2024-25 assessment process is available here.

How special variation applications are assessed

IPART requires councils to actively engage residents in discussions about the proposed increase above the rate peg. Councils can do this with public hearings and other community engagement tools that suit their population. IPART will consider how effective each council’s community inclusion has been before determining its application to increase charges above the set rate. Councils need to show IPART there is:

  • a demonstrated need for higher increases to charges
  • community awareness of their plans
  • a reasonable impact on ratepayers
  • a process to exhibit relevant council documents to the public
  • a history of well-documented council productivity improvements and cost containment strategies

In addition to the council’s evidence, we will assess any other information we consider relevant, including letters from ratepayers. Further information regarding the assessment criteria can be accessed here. IPART can wholly or partially approve or reject a council’s application. Our reasons will be published on our website. The 2023-24 special variation decisions are available here. The 2024-25 special variation application forms and guidance are available here. Special Variation and Minimum Rates review page for 2024-25 is available here.