Lismore Council briefs

Hardship policy

Council has reviewed and amended its Rates & Charges Hardship Policy following the case of invalid pensioner Christine Anderson, whose home was sold by Lismore City Council to recoup $16,000 in unpaid rates.

A Supreme Court ruled that the auction of her South Lismore house was unlawful and Ms Anderson was denied natural justice. She was 10 years in arrears with her rates but was not informed of Council's hardship policy.

Council has now created a separate policy for 'Sale of land for unpaid rates and charges' to ensure any decision on the sale of homes must be signed off on by councillors themselves and is not the responsibility of staff.

"The situation of Ms Anderson comes to mind very strongly in this situation… Whether you were in agreement or opposed it (the sale of her house), it was a situation that caused a lot of controversy and in my perspective a lot of suffering," Cr Simon Clough said. "If there are to be any sales (of homes), it should be made right here in Council, and we councillors take responsibility for that… so there's no possibility someone can say 'a nasty staff person did this'. To sell anybody's home for non-payment of rates is a very significant issue… we should not resile from it but give it very, very serious consideration and it should come to councillors."

Both the Rates & Charges Hardship Policy and the policy on the 'Sale of land for unpaid rates and charges' were adopted and are now on public exhibition for 28 days.

Council smoking policy

Lismore City Council is asking people to comment on its proposed expansion of the Smoke-Free Areas Policy.

The review will specifically investigate whether the community would like to see the CBD block designated as a smoke-free area as well as Council owned and managed playing fields, sporting grounds and sporting facilities, and events run or sponsored by Council.

To complete the survey online visit, select 'Have Your Say' and follow the links. Alternatively, hard copies of the survey are available from Council's Goonellabah or CBD offices. People can comment on the survey until Monday, March 12.

Quarterly budget

Lismore City Council's quarterly budget review statement revealed Council is operating (before capital grants and contributions) with a $10.590 million deficit.

The report prepared by Council's principal accountant states that "the continuation of operating deficits is not considered financially sustainable and Council will need to develop strategies as part of the Community Strategic Plan process" which begins next month.

Council also recorded a cash deficit of $187,800 and the report stated pressure on Council's budget is likely to continue in the next six months. Management is now investigating ways to reduce the amount, which may include deferring non-essential capital works and non-essential expenditure.

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