Pokies blamed for bad payers

GAMBLING on poker machines is being held partly to blame for Corowa shire’s poor record in paying council rates on time.

The council expects something like $860,000 to be owed at the end of the financial year on June 30, and there are plans are in place to target the poor payers.

The fourth instalment payment is due at the end of the month, but on May 15 the amount outstanding was $2.3 million, including $321,000 in long-term rate arrears and $2.01 million of 2013-14 rates.

Corowa general manager Chris Gillard said the debt recovery agency would be actively pursuing outstanding amounts following the fourth instalment due date.

“Ratepayers who fail to make suitable payment arrangements as part of the debt recovery process will incur legal costs in addition their outstanding amount,” Mr Gillard said.

“Collecting a big percentage of rate arrears is like turning around a big ship.

“The reality is the families, who can afford it least, and the pensioners, who have the least ability to pay, are the ones who pay generally.

“A lot of these debts are people with investment properties.

“There are legitimate cases of people with hardship but most families are paying $70 to $80 a month on internet connections and we’ve got a lot of poker machine venues that are bigger than I have ever seen before and they are full.”

The council agreed to adopt the maximum allowable 8.5 per cent interest rate on overdue rates and charges.

Cr Fiona Schirmer said ratepayers had few excuses as rates were some of the cheapest around.

“They need to get on and deal with it,” she said

Pensioners comprise more than 25 per cent of total rate assessments.