Inner West Independent

The Perks of Office

Darcy Byrne

Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne and the Leichhardt Town Hall. Photo: Inner west council and Flavio Brancaleone.

Opinion By PETER HEHIR

An article in the Sunday Telegraph on 19th June states that “the Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne – who is a close friend and former staffer of Prime Minister Anthony ­Albanese – owes more than $15,000 in rates on a $2.5m property in Balmain.

The Mayor, Darcy Thomas Martin Byrne owns a vacant property at 9 Creek Street, Balmain valued at around $2.5 million. It has been left empty for some years.

A total of over $15,000 in Council rates remains unpaid.  This would mean that the Mayor has paid no Council rates for possibly 5 or 6 years (based on around $500 per quarter). Hence, the vast majority of the debt could not have been built up by his mother, as he has implied.

The payments are outstanding from at least 2017, when he inherited the ­property from his deceased parents.

The Sunday Telegraph’s understanding is that the Labor Mayor was issued with further demands for payment in the past few months.

Following a series of public relation faux pas, including an abuse of his position as Mayor where he was alleged to have bullied two IWC Councillors into an apology for statements made on Facebook, his standing in the community has diminished somewhat; as the ALP vote in the December 2021 IWC council election was down by 7% in his old stomping ground, the Balmain peninsula.

Mr Byrne has stated in the Telegraph article “that he had been trying, unsuccessfully, to obtain the deeds to the house, which I am still not in possession of”. He said “this had prevented the property from being put up for sale.”

Given the delay in the processing of the deceased ­estate, I have entered into a payment plan with the ­council, which includes ­paying the historic rates debt plus interest, when the property is sold,” he said.

Certificate of titles explained

So what exactly is a certificate of title in NSW (“the deeds to the house”) as Byrne describes them, and why the hold up with the Mayor’s inherited property?

A certificate of title, (sometimes referred to as a title deed or a land title), is a formal legal document issued to a land owner or buyer by relevant authorities that provides evidence of proof of ownership of real estate.

It shows a title reference, name(s) of registered owners and any registered dealings such as mortgage details.

As the Mayor is the sole inheritor of the property, and there are apparently no other claimants to delay probate, what’s the problem?

Currently, New South Wales Land Registry Services (NSW LRS) handles all NSW land registry services. The original title is held at the state or municipal land registry authorities in NSW. This provides secure storage of the original documents, ensuring that the state will always have the originals.

Check That Property advise that they can provide a copy of a title deed for just $44. Firms such as Property Registry advertise that you can even get your certificate of title emailed to you instantly.

City Hub editor Erin Modaro ran a follow up story a few days ago which demonstrated that the Mayor’s claims that “he was unable to obtain the deed”  had no basis in fact. It is a matter of public record that he owns Lot 17 in DP 161 Balmain, and has done for some time.

Since the mayor is paid about $125,000 a year (not including perks), which allegedly include a well-stocked bar, a chauffeur driven car, ICT, a phone, catered Council functions and has access to a further couple of million to pay a staff of four over the period between elections, just to ensure that he remains in the public eye, surely he can find the necessary $44?

Pensioners don’t get out of having to pay their rates, so why should he?

I was going to suggest that if he’s that hard up maybe we should organise a whip around and shout him the title deed? I’d chip in a dollar just to see him cough up.

But that isn’t necessary as a Land Registry Title Search undertaken just 4 days ago produced a copy without any problem; one that suggests he obtained a copy some years ago.

Well respected Independent IWC Councillor John Stamolis, when asked to express an opinion on Rategate said:

The Mayor has funded two election campaigns while paying no Council rates.  It is often commented on that his campaigns are funded to levels well beyond other candidates.

 The open-ended arrangement set up for the Mayor to pay his rates is most unusual. If other ratepayers are in situations like this, the debt collectors are sent in, usually after 2 or 3 years”.  

So why the hold up? Is it a case of not what you know, but who you know?

Obviously while ever this situation exists, the rates remain unpaid, a house continues to stand empty, while those much less fortunate than our omnipresent Mayor are sleeping rough.

Not a good look for the Mayor of a party that purports to be the people’s champion…

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