The State Government and most of Victoria’s 79 Councils are deliberately hiding homeowners’ rights under the Local Government Act, to apply for their rates to be waived due to financial hardship.
The new Local Government Act 2020 fails to even mention the rates hardship provisions which still apply. Homeowners can only find them by searching the Local Government Act 1989 – parts of which are still in force.
The hardship provisions state that any person who is suffering hardship or would suffer hardship if they paid the full amount of their rates, is entitled to apply to Council for a waiver of all or part of their rates.
Councils do their best to hide this information.
Only Dandenong City Council mentions residents’ rights to a waiver at the actual point that residents apply for hardship.
All other councils fail to mention residents’ legal rights to waivers. The majority of Councils hardship application processes only refer to deferring rates or applying for a p ayment plan.
Some Councils don’t even have hardship policies, even though it’s required by law.
And Whittlesea Council specifically explains why Council cannot waive rates – which directly contradicts the Local Government Act.
In 2020, during unprecedented and widespread financial hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Councils refusal to prominently and clearly provide important information to residents is outrageous.
They keep resident waivers secret because their higher duty is to keep Council staff paid.
If they’d listened to residents more often and earlier and maintained modest, sensible budgets, Councils wouldn’t be facing the significant debt they’ve now brought upon themselves.
It’s unconscionable that Councils pretend that homeowners owe a financial duty to prop up Council waste and selfishness.
Residents have paid rates for decades. It’s time we demanded State Government and Councils implemented waivers, unwaveringly.