Karen Graham of Metford has been told she can’t pay her rates on her own fortnightly schedule, despite Maitland Council having a hardship policy. Picture Dean OslandMaitland, Cessnock, Singleton to get hefty rate rises
A METFORD single mother has questioned Maitland City Council’s desire to help ratepayers experiencing financial hardship after she was not allowed to pay her rates fortnightly.
Karen Graham says she has repeatedly contacted the council to try to pay her rates every two weeks, but was told by staff that she could not pay on the fortnight she wanted.
Ms Graham said she explained to the staff that her energy and water providers quickly adapted her payment schedule.
Council corporate services executive manager Graeme Tolhurst said the finance system was limited to accepting fortnightly payments every second Friday – an issue that would be fixed when a new finance system was installed in July 2015.
He said ratepayers could use BPAY through their bank to set up periodic payments for council rates on whatever cycle they chose.
Ms Graham has dismissed this response, saying it was another example of council fobbing her off.
She said she was entitled to a discount on her rates under the hardship policy because she received a Centrelink payment, but the council was also refusing to accept her eligibility.
The Metford mother of two is critical of the council’s rate rise.
Her rates are $1386 a year, which is similar to what her mother pays for a block overlooking the water at Lake Macquarie.
‘‘How are people in Metford, which is traditionally a low income area, going to afford that?’’ she said.
‘‘Metford is a place where young families can get into the housing market, but this rate rise will force them out.
‘‘I know I won’t be able to afford it.’’
Mr Tolhurst said the council’s hardship policy was available online and it existed to help ratepayers in need.
‘‘Council encourages anyone wishing to set up periodic payment of rates to speak to Council’s rates department about the different options available to them,’’ he said.
‘‘Council’s rates staff can also have a confidential discussion about the hardship policy and a ratepayers individual circumstances.’’