Friday, 20 November 2009

Change rate collection system

A Plaid councillor in Carmarthenshire has called for a change in the way water rates are paid by council tenants. Cllr Marion Binney said that she has been dealing with a number of cases where council tenants are in arrears not because they haven’t paid their rent, but because they haven’t paid their water rates. The county council itself pays the water rates before collecting the monies from the tenants, and Cllr Binney argues that this adds an unnecessary step to the process, and can put tenants in danger of losing their homes because of debts which are really to a third party, not the council.

“I think that council tenants should pay their own water rates directly,” said Cllr Binney. “This would avoid the council chasing tenants for debts to an outside body. It would also put council tenants in the same position as any other householders – responsible for paying their own water bills directly to the water company. This would help both the tenants and the council.

“I understand that it would also enable some families to apply for various rebate schemes available through the water company for which they are ineligible if the council collects and pays their rates. For instance, a family with three under 19s and on benefits, or if there are certain medical conditions and on benefits, will qualify. I suspect that the council is paid a commission of some sort by the water company for collecting the rates on their behalf, but that sort of arrangement should not over-ride the best interests of tenants; and it certainly shouldn’t be a basis for tenants to face the possibility of losing their homes for arrears which are owed to a completely separate organisation.”

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