All councils on notice

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THE Victorian Ombudsman is investigating what all local councils are doing to help residents financially struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The investigation is expected to be completed in the first half of next year. The ombudsman will look into whether information about councils’ financial hardship assistance is accessible for ratepayers, and if it is fair and reasonable.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said “As we know too well, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn will see a growing number of people experiencing financial hardship.”

“Before the pandemic, my office regularly received complaints from ratepayers about the way councils responded when they could not pay their rates,” she said. “Financial counselling and community legal groups also raised concerns.

“I am aware that many councils are providing special assistance and relief for ratepayers during the pandemic. However, it is increasingly clear these problems will endure into the future.

“I believe it is important to look at how councils in different parts of Victoria respond to hardship, to identify good practice that can be shared across the sector.”

Struggling ratepayers whose issues cannot be resolved through council can contact the Victorian Ombudsman for advice on (03) 9613 6222 from 10am – 4pm, Monday – Friday, or online at www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au/complaints

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 9 December 2020

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