Local Government Minister Shaun Leane has refused to support Legislation to ensure Councils tell ratepayers they can apply for rate cuts if they’re suffering financial hardship.
During debate on an omnibus Bill which made alterations to several different pieces of legislation, the Liberal Party proposed amendments, suggested by Ratepayers Victoria, that Councils should have to include information about waivers on their rate notices and Council websites.
The amendments followed lobbying by Ratepayers Victoria in February, when we wrote to all 42 members of the Upper House (including Local Government Minister Shaun Leane) seeking changes to section 171(A) of the Local Government Act, which provides waivers for ratepayers suffering financial hardship.
Ratepayers Victoria asked for provisions to make sure Councils tell ratepayers they can apply for waivers, because Council forms only allow for deferrals - not waivers or cuts.
In addition, Councils often charge interest on deferred rates, which actually increases financial hardship on ratepayers, rather than reducing it.
Following a brief meeting between Shadow Treasurer, David Davis and Acting RPV President Kelvin Granger , the Liberals introduced the following amendments on March 10th:
(1) For the period of 4 years from the commencement of this section, a Council must include details of the waiver for financial hardship provisions in section 171A of the Local Government Act 1989—
(a) in a separate sheet enclosed with any rate notice sent during that period; and
(b) on a website maintained by the Council and on all social media platforms used by the Council.
(2) A Council must include in its annual report—
(a) the number of requests for waivers received under section 171A of the Local Government Act 1989 during the period referred to in subsection (1); and
(b) the number of waivers granted in whole or in part during that period.".'.
To Ratepayers Victoria, the amendments seemed seemed simple and practical.
Local Government Minister Shaun Leane on the other hand, told Parliament the amendment was entirely unnecessary because the Government was going to introduce a Bill on hardship.
The amendment to publicise waivers was defeated 18 votes to 16.