Payment plan for struggling ratepayers

By James Bennett

Residential and business ratepayers struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic can apply to go on a payment plan to pay council rates.

As part of Greater Shepparton City Council's COVID-19 package, ratepayers can also apply for financial hardship consideration and there will be no interest raised on residential and business rates until June 30.

Council said it would be assessing each application on individual circumstances and had not set a limit on how many households could apply.

Chief executive Peter Harriot said as council had never dealt with a situation like the coronavirus before, it was hard to gauge if there would eventually be a limit on how many could apply.

“We know how to go about it, we're just not sure of the volume,” Mr Harriot said.

“If it gets to a certain stage it gets beyond local government's capacity to respond — then it becomes a state or national level response.

“That's why we've being lobbying to federal and state treasurers to say that if it's a significant rate relief response, it has to be supported by state and federal government.

“I can't give details about what level we switch where we can manage hardship to where we need government assistance, but there will come a point when we say that's beyond us.”

The $1.5 million stage one economic response will also include the following:

● Extending animal registration fee due dates to June 30.

● Waiving rent and fees to community groups and sports clubs on council-owned land from March 1 to June 30.

● 50 per cent rent reduction for tenants in council-owned buildings from March 1 to June 30.

● Waiving building and planning permit fees relating directly to the COVID-19 emergency until June 30.

● Waiving outdoor dining permit fees, goods for display permit fees, advertising signs (A-frame) permit fees for 12 months from the 2020/21 financial year.

● Reducing the cost of food premises and health premises registrations for 2021 from November 2020.

● Fast-tracking development applications where possible.

● COVID-19 Quick Response Grant up to $3000 for small and medium businesses for transition to online and e-commerce.

● Developing a Small Business Expert Support Program and suite of virtual seminars.

Mayor Seema Abdullah said council would review its package if it needed to enable further stages.