Rates bills a 'lapse in procedure': Cregan

QUEANBEYAN ratepayers and a group of Queanbeyan Councillors are hopeful that new legal advice tabled at this week's ordinary meeting of Council could enable the Council to write off $3.7 million in backdated rates notices within weeks.

It offers another potential fix to quash the invoices should Mayor Tim Overall's meeting with NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole- scheduled for next Friday- fail to achieve a legislative solution to the ongoing Council crisis.

However the legal advice, commissioned by Councillor Jamie Cregan from local firm Boettcher Law, warns that Councillors have just three months (or until November 1) to find a way to write off the invoices or they will be deemed valid under the Local Government Act.

Councillors Cregan, Judith Burfoot, Sue Whelan, Brian Brown and Kenrick Winchester have said they'll call an extraordinary meeting of Council next week where the new advice will be considered.

Cr Cregan said on Wednesday night that it offered a different legal perspective to the legal advice originally sourced by Queanbeyan Council, and argued the backdated charges had been incorrectly levied and could be declared invalid.

"I'd like to table some alternative legal advice that's quite significantly contrary to what we have received, and in addition to that it points out errors in what we've done," Cr Cregan said.

"As there's been a lapse in procedure in how these rates notices have been issued I'll be moving that they be classed as invalid and withdrawn."

Councillors also passed a motion on Wednesday night extending full rebates on the backdated notices to sporting and community groups, as well as a full water rebate to 'vulnerable water customers who are home dialysis patients.'

Meanwhile Mayor Tim Overall confirmed he'll lead a delegation of councillors to meet with NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole next Friday in an attempt to seek a legislative solution to the invoices.

Country Labor MLC Steve Whan has lent his support to the move in a Letter to the Editor in this week's Queanbeyan Age (page 8), and said changing a regulation was a "pretty simple process."

"Drafting, cabinet approval and gazettal could all happen within a very short time," Mr Whan said.

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