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BEGA: Rate relief up for discussion at 29 April meeting

This week, Bega Valley Shire residents will receive their fourth Rates Instalment notice.

“Council understands residents are experiencing a period of great challenge, however it is a legislative requirement that we issue this instalment at this time,” Bega Valley Shire Council General Manager Leanne Barnes said today.

“We understand people’s current financial situation might be stressed and we don’t want this notice to place further pressure on residents.

“We encourage people to enter into a payment plan if you cannot pay this instalment in full within the payment timeframe.

“However, if you are able to we encourage you to pay the full instalment so that your rates are kept up-to-date.”

The NSW government has just made a series of regulatory changes to ensure council resources continue to be focused on bushfire recovery and frontline COVID-19 response efforts. Those changes will be discussed at the next meeting of Bega Valley Shire Council.

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock has acknowledged that councils are redirecting resources to ensure the delivery of essential services to their communities.

“Councils are playing a vital role in supporting and protecting local communities during these unprecedented times,” Mrs Hancock says.

“The changes provide councils with the flexibility to adjust to rapidly shifting circumstances.

“Importantly, they also give ratepayers more time to pay their rates notices and allows councils to provide financial support to businesses suffering from reduced cash flows or forced closure, by waiving or reducing fees.”

Amendments to local government regulations include:

  • allowing councils to delay sending out the first quarterly rates notice for 2020-21 and extend the payment deadline by one month

  • enabling councils to immediately waive or reduce fees for services such as food premise inspections and footpath usage for COVID-19 affected businesses, without the need to provide 28 days public notice

  • providing councils with a one-month extension to adopt their 2020-21 operational plans and budgets and submit their 2019-20 audited financial statements and annual reports. Councils will also have an extra month to submit their last quarterly budget review statement for 2019-20

  • removing the requirement for documents to be made available for inspection at council offices, if the document is published on the council’s website or available electronically

  • removing the requirement for council notices to be advertised in newspapers and instead allow the relevant notice to be published on the council’s website.

Ms Barnes welcomes the changes and says Council will be moving quickly to adapt.

“Council is meeting on 29 April to discuss the ongoing and combined impact of COVID-19 and the bushfires, and what this situation means for the management and collection of rates going forward,” she said.

“Following this meeting, we will inform the community of the rates issue outcome, which we anticipate will be favourable to ratepayers.

“I want to thank the Local Government Minister for hearing our needs and responding positively for our community.”

If Bega Valley residents would like more information or have any concerns, please put them in writing via email to council@begavalley.nsw.gov.au or via the post to PO Box 492, Bega NSW 2550.

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