Mayor Kevin Greene addresses claims of pensioner rebate confusion

Mayor Kevin Greene (Middle) with Georges River Council staff. Picture: Supplied.
Mayor Kevin Greene (Middle) with Georges River Council staff. Picture: Supplied.

Georges River Council mayor Kevin Greene has sought to address claims ratepayers are confused with its pensioner rebate scheme.

Owner-occupier pensioner ratepayers currently receive a $250 rate rebate.

The mayor says Georges River Council has provided support for vulnerable community members who have suffered hardship during the pandemic.

St George District Residents Network Inc secretary Theresa Kot claims the community is confused.

Ms Kot says the $150 pensioner rebate is separate from the $250 rebate offered, which she claims is a federal government initiative and should also be retained.

"The council is claiming that the pensioner rebate of $250 will be retained. That's a different rebate. It is not the $150 pensioner rebate," she said.

"I think this is confusion and misrepresentation, for the council to be inferring that the federal government rebate will be retained as if it was an initiative of the council."

The mayor disputes any misrepresentation and says there is no federal government initiative concerning pensioner rebates for council rates.

"NSW councils provide a mandatory rebate of $250 to eligible pensioners under section 575 of the Local Government Act 1993, that council rebate has been retained," he said.

"There was never a $150 pensioner rates rebate. However, a one-off discount of $150 on pensioner domestic waste (garbage) charges was applied in 2019/20.

"The previous $150 discount on domestic waste charges is not proposed to be retained, as the council has an adopted forecast operating deficit for 2020/21 of $13 million.

"The proposal is currently subject to community consultation and ratepayers can have their say on whether they wish to continue to further subsidise pensioners above the $250 mandated minimum."

The mayor says further support for pensioners was introduced in July 2020 when the council updated its Debt Management and Hardship Policy in response to the pandemic.

Under this policy, eligible pensioners can: pay deferred rates completely interest-free via monthly instalments or defer rate payments without any penalty interest until the sale of their property.

Cr Greene says the waiving of the penalty interest is significant as the current interest rate charged is seven per cent, as set by the NSW government.

The mayor claims the hardship application process had received excellent feedback due to its ease of use and timeliness of approval.

"The new approach for the payment of rates has been so successful that the number of outstanding rate payments by pensioners declined during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

"With a balanced approach, we are providing a record saving, up to $350 a year, for pensioner ratepayers facing financial challenges.

"There are currently around 8,000 eligible pensioners in Georges River. Since the COVID-19 global pandemic, the number of pensioners with outstanding debts has decreased by five per cent."

For eligibility, visit Georges River Council - Rebates for pensioners (nsw.gov.au).

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