MPs Omit Ratepayers from Fee Relief -Again

Updated: Feb 15

Lower House MPs amended the Local Government Act and the Financial Management Act last week and failed to provide rate relief in either Bill.

The Financial Management Act allows for fee relief for things such as licence renewals and specifically mentions that fees can be waived. The Local Government Act amendments were made so the public could attend Council meetings via video link.

Either of these Bills could have included amendments to ensure that Councils abide by the spirit of the Local Government Act which makes provisions for rates to be waived.

But they didn’t.

In 2019 and 2020 the Victorian Ombudsman took it upon herself to conduct an inquiry into ratepayer hardship. Her report released in May 2020 included case studies of Councils imposing punitive financial penalties on ratepayers already suffering financial hardship. It concluded that banks and power companies were more compassionate and professional toward their customers than Council officers.

Since the release of the report Victorian families have suffered significant health and financial pressures due to Covid – and yet neither Councils nor the State Government have offered any effective rate relief for families and households.

Businesses have been offered financial relief from all levels of government and homeowners have received nothing.

It is particularly galling that state MPs who’ve received substantial payrises and significant expense reimbursement from taxpayers forget us every time they raise their voice to approve or deny a piece of legislation.

There is now an opportunity for MPs in the Legislative Council to make appropriate changes to either the Financial Management Bill or the Local Government Bill to ensure homeowners can get rate relief.

RPV Victoria has written to every Member of the Legislative Council requesting changes to the Local Government Act in the current Parliamentary sitting.

For the moment all we can do is lobby. But with a state election due on November 26th, now is a good time to demand action instead of promises.

Image shows the victoria parliament logo with angry emoji.

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