Media response - Financial Hardship Policy (Rates)
Published on 02 July 2020
Response to Channel 7.
- Journalist wanted clarity around our Draft Financial Hardship Policy (Rates) and what relief it offers ratepayers.
City of Onkaparinga has recently implemented a number of relief measures to support our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a proposed zero per cent rate revenue increase for council rates in 2020-21 and no interest or fines charged on rates until 1 November 2020.
The proposed zero per cent rate increase, which will be voted on by council at a special council meeting on 7 July, means no increase in the overall rate revenue compared to the 2019–20 financial year. The majority of our ratepayers may see either no increase, or a decrease, in their rates bill.
The Financial Hardship Policy (Rates) adopted by the City of Onkaparinga on Tuesday night provides a ratepayer-centric approach to help ratepayers meet their rating obligations. The policy provides connection and support as the primary objective and is designed to support the restoration of a ratepayer’s financial position.
Council has engaged with the LGA and the South Australian Financial Counsellors Association to develop a policy designed and written in terms that connect with the community, that supports the connection with professional services through the National Debt Helpline and the associated localised financial counsellors’ network. We aim to work with ratepayers and provide an approach that seeks to avoid the use of the courts, supporting the community while ensuring equity across the city.
Under this policy, a ratepayer who identifies as being in financial difficulty, who is willing but not able to pay their rates, is guaranteed a fair, equitable and considered approach while their situation is discussed respectfully in a confidential environment.
The policy also allows Council to provide a remission of rates in more extreme hardship situations that result in the ratepayer having to sell their property to resolve their hardship position.
The proposed zero rate increase and adoption of the Financial Hardship Policy (Rates) comes in the wake of a range of relief measures already introduced in April. These included establishing a $50,000 community wellbeing and resilience fund to support our resident’s social isolation, mental health, financial security and food security; and waiving lease and associated costs for businesses and community and sporting clubs using council facilities for three months.