RATEPAYERS suffering from the effects of natural disasters and coronavirus have been given a lifeline after Cabonne Council approved a hardship policy.
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The policy will provide a mechanism for people to approach the council about outstanding rates and water and sewer charges, preventing debt from becoming unmanageable.
It is hoped to cut legal costs by enabling the council to collect debts while reducing the amount of debt referred to collection agencies.
People facing hardship will need to fill out a form and have their situation assessed.
The policy only applies to the principle place of residence or business.
One-off measures available might include a payment plan or relief from interest for up to 12 months.
The principle charges would not be altered.
Councillor Marlene Nash said she was happy to see it in the agenda.
"At this time there is a lot of people who are having problems," she said.
Councillor Cheryl Newsom said the issue was first raised 18 months ago in relation to drought victims and asked whether the policy would be retrospective.
General manager Brad Byrnes said the policy would include accumulated debt, which could have carried over a number of years.
"So if there are people out there with outstanding rates which have been accumulating interest, that can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis," he said.
"So if they are at the moment in that situation, this policy can be utilised to assess their claim and if we feel it doesn't fall in the realms of the policy we can also always bring it to council.
"If there are people who from 18 months ago have started being behind on their rates, this policy is now in place for them to write to council."
The council also approved the draft budget for public exhibition, which began on Monday.
It expects to spend $22 million on capital projects and major works, including $8 million on road construction and $4.5 million on stimulus for community projects.
However, the budget will deplete reserves by $5.7 million.
The council voted to lobby for an increase to financial assistance grants from the federal government to 1 per cent of taxation revenue to help councils cover costs - the grants currently account for 0.55 per cent.
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