One of the rates graphics released by Gympie Regional Council with its 2016-17 budget earlier this year.
One of the rates graphics released by Gympie Regional Council with its 2016-17 budget earlier this year. Frances Klein

Interest on overdue rates too high in Gympie region

LETTER TO EDITOR:

Interest too high

OKAY, so I didn't pay my rates. And okay, so I got served a court order. My family has been strapped for cash like so many people these days.

I had some correspondence with council's lawyers - CLH Lawyers in Brisbane. I intended to defend myself. I am not dumb and I can read the law.

On April 11, the lawyer wrote that 11% interest on my overdue rates "is an appropriate rate of interest”.

Hang on a minute - 11%?

The Federal Reserve interest rate is 1.5% and has been most of this year. It was 2% in May 2015, below 3% in May 2013, and has been below 10% since September 1991.

So how does council justify the incredibly high rate they charge people who are already doing it tough?

Bear with me.

Gympie Regional Council justifies this charge because it is written in section 133 of Local Government Regulation 2012. How can an interest rate be set in black and white when every other business and credit card company varies their rate?

I did some research. I checked other council interest rates on late payments. Here are some:

Sunshine Coast, Noosa and South Burnett: 11%. This rate is compounded daily which means ratepayers pay 11% on top of the 11% and so on.

City of Sydney: 8.5%

Hunter's Hill, NSW: 8%

Ceduna, SA: 2% (their website states this)

How are these differences? It is to do with the legislation councils choose. And so it is different throughout Australia. Simple as that.

The City of Sydney Council has an interest rate of 8.5% but even this is too high really.

Their interest rate is set by an independent body: IPART (Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal). At the same time, this council determines its rates according to the Local Government Act 1993.

Section 566(3) says "The rate of interest is that set by the council but must not exceed the rate specified for the time being by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette”.

In other words, the rates are reviewed, just like mortgages and credit card interest rates. No one except these councils has their interest rate set in concrete.

The Local Government Regulation 2012, section 133, says interest should not be "more than 11% a year, decided by the local government”. So our council charges the max.

Why are Australia's councils not consistent? Why does the Australian Local Government Association not have a set policy?

For me, the rate should be FBA rate plus maybe 4%. Which means we should be paying 5.5-6%.

We are being charged way too much interest. I can fight this alone but would prefer some support.

There is a petition to sign on change.org called "Refund excess interest on late council rates please!”

If you would like to join me I would be happy. It might be hard on my own.

Dr Anna Kassulke,

Veteran.

Fluoride and social media

GREAT letter from Pat Sellen. I could not agree more.

People should absolutely have the right to choose what they put in their bodies. And as for Glen Ramsey (GT, October 8, 2016)) I would remind him that the newspaper and social media he advises we should not be using to have our say is exactly what he has used to denigrate other people who use these avenues to voice their concerns.

If this is indeed a democracy then we have the same rights as he does.

Wendy Goldfinch,

Mothar Mountain.

Energy security

I WONDER if Josh Frydenberg or our Malcom will be calling up the Governor of Florida and letting him know that it is Florida's 2.5% dependence on alternative energy that led to the loss of power for over 50,000 residents following the non-storm of Matthew.

Even nuclear power couldn't keep the lights on for those residents. Josh and Mal could teach them a thing or two about energy security, I'm sure.

Steve Hall,

Cooroy.

Gympie Times


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