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June 4, 2019 - Council clarifies debt write-off

Cassowary Coast Regional Council has clarified several points around the resolution to write off $393,303 of unrecoverable debts at its last general meeting.
These debts were left unrecoverable when the State Government cancelled leases, subleases and a permit to occupy.
Of this amount, $344, 636 in rates was rendered unrecoverable when the State Government cancelled a property lease. The business entity had also gone into liquidation, thereby making it impossible to recover the debt. 
On another property, the State cancelled a lease because of non-payment by the absentee leaseholder in 2014. Council’s debt collection agency continued to try to find the debtor for non-payment of rates and by March 2018 felt it had exhausted all avenues. New information as to his whereabouts came about in May 2018 and write-off of the debt at that time was deferred. However, to date the person has not been located and it was decided in May 2019 to write-off the debt, which continued to accrue as rates in arrears and had now grown to $25,312.
The remaining amount involved properties where the leases or permits no longer exist and Council could not proceed with its intention to sell process because there is no title or land to sell to recover outstanding rates.
The debtor write-off of $72,377 concerned a lease agreement with Council where the debtor was declared bankrupt. Council had referred the debt to its collection agency after making a number of arrangements over several years to assist the debtor in paying the outstanding balance within the required timeframe. 
The debtor had also agreed to the sale of numerous goods and chattels located on the site, from which Council recovered $16,900, and which was offset against the outstanding balance.
“Council staff work diligently with stringent accountability requirements to recover all debts on behalf of ratepayers,” a Council spokesperson said.
“There is little Council can do after the fact if leases are cancelled by other parties. Writing off debt is a blunt economic reality when all avenues to recover outstanding money is exhausted.”