Monday, 2 September 2019

NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government will no longer offer $250 pa council rates rebate to new pensioners from 2020?

It has been on the NSW Government agenda for some years now, but it is looking highly likely that the Berejiklian Liberal-Nationals Government is going to scrap the annual $250 rates rebate for homeowners holding a Commonwealth Pensioner Concession Card for all but existing Age, Veterans Affairs TPI/EDA, War Widow and Disability Support pensioners.

All future homeowning pensioners will instead be able to defer the first $1,000 of their annual rate payments (CPI indexed), with full payment of the debt (plus interest) on sale of the house/unit/flat.

The Daily Examiner, 30 August 2019, p.4: 

Council has expressed disappointment at being unable to provide feedback on a critical pensioner concession. 

After the Office of Local Government invited feedback on the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s report into the review of the Local Government Rating System, Deputy Mayor Jason Kingsley moved a motion to have council express disappointment there was no further consultation on the pensioner concession. 

Clarence Valley Council was able to provide feedback on a raft of recommendations by IPART but could not comment on a proposal to introduce a scheme to allow eligible pensioners to defer up to $1000 of their rates. 

Cr Kingsley was scathing in his assessment of the scheme which he said appeared “has been decided” and involved indexing the rates to CPI to be paid when the house was sold. 

“Not only is the recommendation to remove the current $250 concession in lieu of the deferral... but it will also be charged interest until the full amount is recovered,” he said. 

“So the financial legacy the pensioner was hoping to leave to their families may be eaten up in deferred rate charges as well as interest.” 

Cr Karen Toms as “devil’s advocate” said while she agreed with the motion on the principle that they had not been able to provide feedback, she was “a little bit torn” as the council spends about $1 million on pensioner subsidies each year. 

“I actually quite liked the idea of perhaps deferring it. I know it sounds mercenary perhaps but the reality is that house is going to be sold one day. I am torn a little bit,” she said. 

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said since 2011 the NSW Government had invested $694 million to help pensioners make ends meet and IPART’s recommendation to create a rate deferral scheme had been ruled out. 

“It is important to strike a balance between providing rebates and continuing to fund the services that local communities need – services such as hospitals, roads, education and child care.” he said. 

In 2017 when the issue was last raised, council did not support the recommendation to introduce rate deferrals and said it was “council’s strong view pensioner concession must be fully funded by the State Government”. 

“A rate deferral scheme is problematic in local government areas with a high proportion of pensioners and low property values as it may result in less than full recovery of deferred debts from sale of properties and create cash flow issues for the council” the resolution from the October 18 meeting stated.....

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