Lachlan Shire Council’s Debt Recovery and Financial Hardship Policies have been reviewed.
Whilst Council has a responsibility to ensure all rates and charges or other debts are collected in a timely manner, they also recognises there are cases of genuine financial hardship in the local community.
“These require respect and compassion, particularly during special circumstances such as drought and the current COVID-19 pandemic,” a statement from Lachlan Shire Council, released on Tuesday, 16 June explained.
“In March 2019 Council requested that its Debt Recovery Policy be revised to assist with the reduction of outstanding Rates and Charges. As the Hardship Policy interacts with the Debt Recovery Policy, both policies were reviewed together.
“The revised policies have been prepared after consultation with relevant staff members and drafted in accordance with the Local Government Act 1993 and associated regulations. The policies give greater guidance and transparency to staff and the community.
“The Debt Recovery Policy and the first version of the Financial Hardship Policy were presented at Council’s April 2020 meeting.
“The Hardship Policy has since been comprehensively reviewed to support the desire of Councillors to assist community members experiencing genuine financial hardship.
“The policy scope has been broadened to take into account all ratepayers, whether they be farmland, residential or business. There are also new clauses to cover drought, COVID-19 and other special circumstances.
“The implementation of both the Debt Recovery Policy and Hardship Policy should improve Council’s cash flow position and reduce Council’s exposure to financial controls risk.
“Consultation has occurred with various relevant stakeholders and the policies are currently on public display for community input.
“Council understands that difficulty paying rates and charges is often a topic which is uncomfortable to discuss, however people are encouraged to make early contact if they find themselves in financial hardship.
“A number of free government and not-for-profit services are available to support you if you are experiencing financial difficulty.
“These include the National Debt Helpline – Phone: 1800 007 007; Community Legal Centres in different local government areas across NSW; Law Access NSW line on 1300 888 529; and Local community financial counselling services.”
By Melissa Blewitt.