Unpaid council rates total $38m

Rate arrears at Hume City Council have risen to $38m as householders struggle to pay their way.

The council’s finance department blames the “current economic conditions” of high interest rates and inflation for fewer people paying their rates bill on time.

Council finance chiefs say the majority (78.2%) of rate arrears relate to residential properties, the remainder being industrial and commercial.

Sunbury Cllr Trevor Dance, speaking at a meeting of the full council on Monday 27 November, said rate arrears have risen by $10m since 1 June, “…that’s a 26% increase”.

Sunbury councillor Trevor Dance.
Sunbury councillor Trevor Dance.

“Anyone in council, or out there, who doesn’t think our households aren’t under mortgage stress, and aren’t finding it hard, have to have their head in the sand,” he said.

“I didn’t support rate rises last time, or the time before, because you could see after Covid the economy would turn and go down hill. Which it is.

“As a council we have to be very careful and do the right thing. The most important people out there are our ratepayers.”

Cllr (and former mayor) Joseph Haweil (Aitken Ward) said the rise in unpaid rates was a “worrying trend”.

“I want to associate myself in the chamber tonight with the many thousands of residents who are suffering the burden of the crazy economic policy being played out in this country through the Reserve Bank, and its apparent desire to crush working people in order to achieve the economic outcomes it wishes to achieve.”

“I know from talking to service providers in the area that there are people in households – where both people are working – and they can’t afford food and rely on services such as food banks.”

The Reserve Banks of Australia (RBA) has tried to cool inflation by increasing the official cash rate. The rate has risen from 0.10% in April 2022 to 4.35% today – the last rate rise being on 8 November.