CHANGES MADE TO EASE PRESSURE ON RATEPAYERS & COUNCILS: COVID-19

Thursday, 23 April 2020

PRESSURE on local councils to provide financial relief to ratepayers during the COVID-19 pandemic has been eased with Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall welcoming a series of NSW regulatory changes which will allow councils to ease the burden on the hip pockets of local residents and businesses.

Mr Marshall said the changes acknowledged that many of the region’s councils were redirecting resources to ensure the ongoing delivery of essential services to their communities.

“To date, our councils have been at the coal-face of the COVID-19 response, playing a vital role in supporting and protecting our local communities during these unprecedented times,” Mr Marshall said.

“The changes announced by the State Government provide councils with the flexibility to adjust to rapidly shifting circumstances.

“Importantly, they also give ratepayers more time to pay their rates and allows councils to provide financial support to businesses suffering from reduced cash flows or forced closure by waiving or reducing fees.”

Amendments to local government regulations include:

• Allowing councils to delay sending out the first quarterly rates notice for 2020-21 and extend the payment deadline by one month;
• Enabling councils to immediately waive or reduce fees for services such as food premise inspections and footpath usage for COVID-19 affected businesses, without the need to provide 28 days public notice;
• Providing councils with a one-month extension to adopt their 2020-21 operational plans and budgets and submit their 2019-20 audited financial statements and annual reports. Councils will also have an extra month to submit their last quarterly budget review statement for 2019-20;
• Removing the requirement for documents to be made available for inspection at council offices, if the document is published on the council’s website or available electronically; and
• Removing the requirement for council notices to be advertised in newspapers and instead allow the relevant notice to be published on the council’s website.

Mr Marshall acknowledged the outstanding work of council staff across the region during the pandemic.

“While some of us are able to work from home, many of our council staff are still out in the community collecting processing our rubbish, fixing roads, repairing water mains and maintaining our public parks and fields – all of which are essential services,” he said.

“Councils have had to make many tough decisions over the last two months which will ultimately have a significant impact on their budgetary positions and I thank them for showing leadership and putting their communities first.

“I will continue to work with local councils to identify, develop and implement more measures to support them and their local communities during and particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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