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Annual Report 2004-2005 Ombudsman 27th Report



Annual Report 2004-2005 Ombudsman 27th Report

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Tabled paper 283


Tabled papers for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Tabled papers; ParliamentNT




Tabled By Claire Martin


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___________________________________________________________ Ombudsmans Annual Report 2004/05 59 The complainant responded a few weeks later, advising that the incidence of lockdowns had decreased and that sports periods had returned to normal. LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILS 1. Take Me To Court Palmerston City Council The complainant in this matter advised this office that the Palmerston City Council had discontinued a court action against her after she had traveled to the Darwin Magistrates Court in answer to a Council issued summons from interstate. The Court matter was in relation to disputed rates payments. A Notice of Discontinuance was filed by the Councils agents at 3.35pm the day before the scheduled hearing without any formal notice to the complainant. The complainant also disputed the rates assessment by the Council which included interest. Inquiries by this office established that the disputed rates originated from unpaid rates in the 2002/2003 rates period. A 2002/2003 rates notice was sent to the complainant and the first instalment was paid on time. The second instalment was not received by the due date and a reminder letter was sent to the complainant. A further letter was forwarded by the Council regarding the overdue payment. At this point, the Council referred the matter of collecting the debt owed to them to a debt collecting agency. At this point the debt consisted of the second and third instalments of the 2002/2003 rates, interest accrued and fees incurred by the Council in attempting to recover the money owed to date. Due to a lack of response from the complainant, the Council then lodged a Statement of Claim for Debt or Damages in the Local Court. This office ultimately came to the conclusion that the Council had utilised the provisions of the Local Government Act in an attempt to recover overdue rates and charges payments from the complainant in relation to the 2002/2003 rates period. As new rates notices were issued, the debt became larger. The levying of interest and charges was in accordance with the provisions of the Act and all payments from that time were allocated as per the Act (i.e. to the oldest debt first). The Court, Council and their debt collecting agent were not aware that the complainant was going to appear before the Court in person. Up to this point the complainant had advised all parties that teleconferencing was to be utilised for the Court proceedings. The Discontinuance process had begun on the day before the Court hearing was scheduled. The Councils debt collecting agent attempted to contact the complainant regarding the discontinuance and left messages on her mobile phone. Given the above, it was this offices opinion that the administrative actions of the Council were not unreasonable in the circumstances.