Rates again causing a fuss

August 08, 2017

City of Greater Shepparton Council has removed the February lump sum payment option for rates.

Whenever council rates notices are released, there will no doubt be some who are unhappy.

Whether it be around the amount charged, the penalties for late payment enforced or the contentious fixed municipal charge.

This time around though, it is the removal of a payment option that seems to have created a fuss.

The option in question was a now removed February lump sum payment option.

One concern seems to be a lack of notification around the change.

Greater Shepparton City Councillors had endorsed a new rating strategy earlier this year after it had been out for a period of public consultation.

Not one submission was received, itself a source of disappointment from councillors at the time.

Of course, then was the time to say something about the new strategy.

But if not a single submission is received, fault shouldn’t fall solely at the feet of ratepayers not having their say.

Making sure the process is accessible to engage with should be equally important.

If submissions and feedback are sought after, more could probably be done to make sure feedback is welcomed and important.

Early indications of community feelings about the removal of the February lump sum option show there is no shortage of opinion either.

It’s just a shame this wasn’t available to councillors when they signed off on the strategy a few months ago.

It goes without saying, when documents like budgets, council plans and rating strategies go out for public consultation, it is vital the community has its say on proposed changes.

But if residents are not finding out about these changes until they open rates notices and possibly after they have made decisions about their own finances with the assumption a lump sum payment option continuing, the process of engaging residents on important changes could surely be looked at.

Furthermore, if the reasoning behind the removal is to better identify those who may have difficulty paying their rates, one wonders if removing a lump sum payment option is the most effective way of achieving that?

No-one is pretending ensuring rates are fairly charged, the payment of them fairly managed and communications with residents around that process is an easy task.

But based on feedback, this is a process that could perhaps be more closely looked at.

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