Nearly $5 million owed in unpaid rate bills

SOMERSET and Lockyer Valley residents collectively owe almost $5 million in unpaid rates.

The Somerset and Lockyer Valley Regional Councils are owed $4.8 million dollars, and the debt is hurting both councils and rate-payers.

Lockyer Valley Regional Council finance portfolio chair, councillor Chris Wilson said rates played a big part in any council being able to deliver the services and infrastructure required by a community.

Rates generate 63 per cent of the council's income.

Cr Wilson said at present, the total amount owed to the council was approximately $3.3 million dollars.

"However it's important to point out that the latest levy due date has only recently passed so that balance will continue to reduce as people enter into and honour their payment commitments," Cr Wilson said. "In fact, I would expect that figure to drop to about $2 million before the next rates levy issued in July."

A Somerset Regional Council spokesperson said like most councils SRC had unpaid rates and charges owing, amounting to about $1.5 million.

The amounts owed to SRC range from very minor amounts up to $133,000 for one property owner.

Cr Wilson said LVRC, like all councils, relied on the collection of rates to fund it's operations.

"Like any other organisation that generates income, if rates aren't paid on time, it reduces the cash we have to pay our bills," he said. Unpaid rates have have serious consequences and can end with properties being auctioned to recover the debt. The SRC spokesperson said the council's policy was to commence sale of land for overdue rate action for all properties with more than three years of rates owing.

This was always a last resort.

"The council will work with owners to try and avoid forced auctions of land," the spokesperson said. "In the past year the council was able to avoid all but three property auctions to recover outstanding rates."

Both councils stressed there was assistance available for ratepayers experiencing difficulties meeting their rates obligations.

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