Council endorses Hardship Policy

Residents suffering economic hardship as a result of the Coronavirus can apply to defer their rate payments for six months –- double the typical period for such arrangements – under a Hardship Policy approved by the Devonport City Council at tonight’s meeting.

Council has also endorsed a zero per cent general rate increase for 2020/21 across all property categories and will freeze fees and charges at current levels.

Under the Hardship Policy Council may also waive the applicable late payment penalties, for a specified period due to financial hardship.

It will not charge any payment penalties or interest for late rate payments during the 2020 COVID-19 state of emergency until at least 30 June 2020.

Remission of any rates, in part or in full, is reserved only for the most serious and exceptional of financial hardship cases.

Even in these cases, deferral of rate payments must be applied for and granted before an application for rates remission can be considered.

Council will continue to work with ratepayers having difficulty meeting their payment obligations by designing personal payment plans taking into account their particular circumstances.

The Hardship Policy has been developed following consultations between Tasmania’s 29 councils and the Local Government Association of Tasmania regarding the development of a consistent hardship policy to deal with the pandemic.

Serious financial hardship involves both low income/cash flow and a low asset base.

Applicants will need to provide evidence of their circumstances of financial hardship to be eligible.

That would include such evidence as:

• An assessment by an independent accredited financial counsellor

• A statutory declaration from an appropriate and independent professional, familiar with the applicant’s circumstances

• Pending disconnection of essential services (not including mobile phone or internet or;

• A letter from charitable organisation regarding loss of employment and the subsequent inability to provide for basic necessities.

The Mayor Annette Rockliff said Council was determined to assist those most critically impacted by the slowdown with a robust and fair Hardship Policy.

Cr Rockliff also urged those could continue to pay their rates to do so.

“Their contribution will continue to make a big difference to the delivery of services the community needs.”

While acknowledging that some in the community were seeking a general waiving of rates, Cr Rockliff said that was not practical for Council.

“Council understands that the pandemic is having a serious economic impact on the community and is seeking to support the community as much as it is able,” she said.

“But Council provides many essential services to the community – from rubbish and recycling collections, through to cleaning our streets and gutters, and fixing our roads and footpaths – and all these services come at a cost.

“While the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are not fully known, it will significantly impact Council’s financial position.

“It is likely that a full revision of Council’s 10-year financial plan will be necessary to reset the annual parameters to guide Council’s budget process.”

As a result of the pandemic Council is now projecting a deficit of between $800,000 and $1 million this financial year after previously indicating a small surplus was likely.

Cr Rockliff said Council had already enacted measures to support the community – such as waiving parking fees, ground fees for sporting clubs and business licence fees, removing late payments fees for the April rates instalment if paid by 30 June and a commitment to pay suppliers within 14 days to assist their cash flow.

“We will continue to look at ways we can provide further support to the community.”

ENDS

Media Contact
Nigel Tapp |Media & Communications Officer Devonport City Council
03 6424 0562 | 0427 132 972 |ntapp@devonport.tas.gov.au

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