Whether it is bushfires, drought or the COVID pandemic, local government is at the front line responding, enabling the recovery, and ensuring we build back better. Across Sydney, Councils are taking action to work towards meeting the changing and challenging needs of their communities backed by a range of measures taken by the State and Federal Government.
Councils are continuing to provide critical services while addressing and adapting to the current health and economic conditions. Garbage collections, cleaning, library, parking, parks, and roads all need to be maintained as well additional steps taken to protect and support employees, community members and local businesses.
The financial burden on Councils is one that the New South Wales Minister for Local Government, The Hon Shelley Hancock, acknowledges highlighting liquidity as a key issue due to the Covid-9 crisis draining revenues while they are also having to spend more money on ensuring the health and safety of residents and keep staff employed.
The Minister has praised the efforts of many Councils to help struggling businesses by suspending and deferring payments of a range fees and charges, as well as deferring rate payments for struggling households. These measures that are assisting local businesses stay afloat and shield local people from further economic pain with many hardship requests on late rate payments. But they have resulted in a big challenge to councils’ liquidity.
The NSW Government has provided a strong economic rescue package for Local Government, setting aside $400 million in stimulus funding. This support will go some way to keep local communities and businesses operating safely.
Further good news for Councils is that the Minister confirmed that she will ensure the issue of rate-capping will be discussed and re-examined when State Government returns to its normal sitting schedule later in the year.
Many regional councils are also still suffering from the ongoing effects of drought and the bushfires. This has affected thousands of residents and businesses in the bush - and city communities - in some way. Now the trifecta of Covid-19 is dramatically adding more pressure on councils’ already stretched budgets.
Right across Greater Sydney and increasingly in many regional towns the economic crisis has exacerbated the problem of homelessness. Local Government and Treasury are continuing to work together to secure more funding to assist the homeless and those in need of crisis accommodation due to economic hardship from Covid-induced unemployment and resultant poverty.
While there is much more to do to enable local government to continue to support local communities, the collaboration and commitment from the State Government, including Minister Hancock, is encouraging and valuable during these difficult and unprecedented times.
Local streets, neighbourhoods, parks and economies matter more than ever.
Sydney Business Chamber held an online forum with The Hon Shelley Hancock, Minister for Local Government on 14 May 2020.
Topics: local government, sydney, post covid-19, economic recovery, NSW
Media contact: David Peters 0472 678 535
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