Community News

COVID-19 ‘payment holidays’ and CVC’s responses

Geoff Helisma
30th March 2020

On Friday March 27, Ballina Shire Council (BSC) announced it had created a business package to support local business and residents during and after the COVID-19 pandemic: the Independent spoke with Clarence Valley Council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, to find out if his council was planning similar initiatives.

The Independent put the relevant BSC initiatives to Mr Lindsay and sought responses.

BSC: Interest rate on overdue rates and charges – The current rate is 7.5% and will decrease this rate to zero for the period from 1 April 2020 to 30 June 2021, a period of 15 months.

Mr Lindsay said that CVC’s existing hardship and natural disaster policy/ies “would be amended to cover the pandemic issue at the April council meeting, possibly with an interest free 4-year period on rates arrears”, pending councillors making a decision.

The current hardship policy states: “In the event the ratepayer meets the agreed payment arrangements in full, any interest charges accrued during the period will be waived.”

Mr Lindsay said that councillors could “potentially set the interest rate” levied on late payments “at zero” for the 2020/21 financial year.

BSC: Community Facility Hire Fees – refund of bookings.
Councillors have previously delegated authority to the GM “to refund bookings on request”.

BSC: Flat Rock Tent Park – refund of bookings
Clarence Valley Council’s parks are closed; however, Mr Lindsay said CVC is “making arrangements to consider either refunds or credits for future bookings”.

BSC: Commercial Use of Footpaths – no fees for a period of 15 months from 1 April to 30 June 2021 to allow businesses to re-establish when they open.
Clarence Valley Council “already has a fee waiver in place as part of the Vibrant Places Program”.

BSC: Community Groups – tenancy rental relief for Lennox Head Community Sports and Recreation Club and Ballina Hockey Club for 15 months.

Mr Lindsay said this type of issue would be “considered in a report to the April council meeting … in addressing COVID-19”.

He said that CVC would also cover other similar initiatives – such as restricting parking fines, waiving a percentage of fees for surf schools and the like, health inspections, market fees and commercial tenancies – to those enacted by BSC at the April CVC meeting.

The council’s sports centres will pose some interesting dilemmas, given that some are tenanted and management is paid at others.

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