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Clarence Forum members have continued to rally on behalf of Alan Smith, who is endeavouring to modify an agreement with Clarence Valley Council, regarding his rates arrears. Pictured: (front l-r): Sue Noddy, Alan Smith, ACA’s Brady Halls; (rear from second l-r) Robyn Summers-Shelley, Peter Johnson, Helen Badger and Donna Kenny-Franklin. ACA team members are at far left and right. Image: Contributed

ACA covers forum’s battle to save man’s house

Geoff Helisma |

Current affairs TV show, ACA (A Current Affair), is covering online advocacy group The Clarence Forum’s efforts to support South Grafton resident Alan Smith.

The Independent reported on Mr Smith’s plight on May 16.

Advocating on Mr Smith’s behalf, the forum helped save his home from a Clarence Valley Council (CVC) auction of properties for which rates and charges were overdue for five or more years.

Since that time, forum members have provided limited financial assistance to Mr Smith, who is currently paying $350 per fortnight to CVC from his pension, in addition to repaying a Centrelink loan.

According to the forum’s convenor, John Hagger, efforts to obtain a breakdown of the components of his debt have not been successful, nor were attempts to bring his plight to the June 26 council meeting.

On June 26, CVC wrote to Mr Smith in response to his June 6 letter: “Council refers to your letter received in this Office on 8th June 2018, advising of your current financial situation and the fact that you would like to reduce your offer of paying $350 per fortnight to paying $118 per fortnight.

“For Council to be in a position to consider your offer, we require your authority to obtain information from your mortgagee.”
“…As a result, this matter will not be dealt with at the June 2018 Meeting
“…when all the relevant information is available, Council will consider your offer and you will be advised.”
Prior to the June 26 letter, Mr Smith had provided CVC with a detailed history of his life and the health conditions that led to his predicament, and consent to access his banking and medical records.

On June 28, Mr Smith wrote to the council again, asking for “the provision of a detailed breakdown of the rates and charges that council claims are owing, as the information provided so far simply lumps them all together”.
“Please include details of the interest rates charged, details of the legal action, and payments made by date and for which account,” he wrote.
“The information provided to date has no entries per year for payments and only provides a total amount for all charges across 14 years.
“When the application does go to [a] council [meeting], would you please add this letter and a request for the reinstatement of the pension rebate from 2011 to 2017.
“As clarified at meetings with council, I was absent for two and a half years due to very serious health problems that were beyond my control, but council cancelled the pension rebate for six years.”
Following the time spent with the ACA film crew, Mr Hagger posted, in part, on the forum’s Facebook page: “What an amazing morning.
“Thanks to A Current Affair [for] making the trip from Sydney and [to the] Forum members who contacted ACA on Alan’s behalf.
“We met at Alan’s home just after 9am.
“Then headed down to CVC Grafton Central … we then went back to Alan’s for another set of interviews, and from there to the Super Depot and on to Camelia Cottage, where Alan was a foundation member.”

Clarence Valley Council declined to make any comment on privacy grounds.

A screening date for Mr Smith’s story was not known at the time of going to press.

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