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Land & Property services must be sensitive to economic hardship

10 February, 2009

West Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann has called on the Land & Property services to be sensitive to the financial difficulties of low income families when collecting rate arrears.

Ms McCann who sits on the Committee for Finance & Personnel said:

"While all of us recognise the importance of paying rates to access the services provided by local councils I believe the Land & Property Services need to be focused in the way they collect rate arrears.

"It is obvious there are a number of properties that have been classed as vacant which in fact are not vacant and it is important rates on these properties are collected.

"However there are a number of people who have fallen into arrears on their rates due to the economic downturn and these people need to be treated in a different way than those who are deliberately avoiding paying rates.

"In some cases it is the first time people have fallen into arrears and given the current economic difficulties many people are finding themselves in I don't feel it is appropriate to roll out a one size fits all mechanism to collect rate arrears.

"I have met with the Land & Property Services today and I will be asking them to ensure that rates and rate arrears be collected in a managed and focused way, which is sensitive to the individuals needs."

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