Confusion over discounts

COUNCILLORS at yesterday’s Corporate Services committee meeting expressed concerns that pensioners were misinformed about who was responsible for their discounts.

Cr Ross Bartley said he was worried the “repetitive newspaper releases” about how bills were issued did not address the fact pensioner rebates were actually paid by State Government.

It is understood council and individual councillors are being bombarded with inquiries about rate notices and they are keen to quell some of the angst.

He asked, “Where does the onus lie? Does it lie with the ratepayer to make sure their details are coherent with council?”

Finance manager Gillian Buganey was called in to explain that Centrelink and the Department of Communities, as well as the ratepayer, were all involved in ensuring the process runs smoothly.

She said that often pensioners had a different address registered at Centrelink than at council adding that if residents genuinely think they are entitled to a discount and haven’t received any, they should drop their pensioner entitlement letter into council offices for the records to be amended.

“However, people have to give us some breath. They can’t ring up two days later and ask if it’s been processed it yet," she said.

“For example, we had an inquiry from one ratepayer who said he didn’t get his pensioner discount, but he hasn’t had it for four years. There are a lot of these historical cases.”

Ms Buganey said council now had a significant backlog and many of those asking for their pensioner discounts were previously unaware they were entitled to it.

Amendment notices cannot be issued until the 60 day discount period is finished, so it may be a significant wait if anyone is due a refund.

Cr Bartley stressed that to avoid a similar situation next year, ratepayers should make sure their records are up-to-date with Centrelink and make sure details correspond with council details.

Ms Buganey added, “There have been cases where people have not received rebates but it’s as a result of the Department of Communities. Council doesn’t have the authority to issue those rebates, that’s state government’s responsibility.

Cr Vic Pennisi said he thought as soon as the 60 day discount period finished council should seek community feedback about the new rating system.

“There is obviously a lot of community angst with the delivery of the new rating system.”

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