Local Government stimulus package better than nothing: Saffin

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin has been pushing hard for NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock to come to the rescue of country councils, particularly smaller ones which struggled financially.

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin has been pushing hard for NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock to come to the rescue of country councils, particularly smaller ones which struggled financially.

The NSW Government’s $395-million economic stimulus package for local councils is a good start but needs close scrutiny to judge its effectiveness on the ground, according to Ms Saffin.

“It should help keep staff, which is most welcome, but I am not sure if it can help the Lismore City Council’s 73 casual staff who already lost their jobs, locals for whom I fell deeply right now,” Ms Saffin said.

“I had advocated for a major injection of funding for shovel-ready community infrastructure projects, but this package puts the onus on councils to accumulate more debt by having to borrow through the State’s TCorp borrowing facility, for such projects.

“So while some councils may be eligible to take advantage of these low-cost loans, I think most councils will be banking on the Federal Government coming good with direct funding for councils, probably for road construction and maintenance.”

Main features of the package are: 

  • A three-month Council Job Retention Allowance of $1500 per fortnight per qualifying staff, to limit job losses. The total allowance is capped at $112.5 million and will be drawn from the NSW Government’s Jobs for NSW fund.
  • $32.8 million to help councils meet increases in the 2020/21 Emergency Services Levy. This provision is over and above the $13.6 million provided last year, to help manage overnight levy increases of up to $220,000.
  • A $250-million increase in low-cost loans to eligible councils through TCorp to kick-start community infrastructure projects. TCorp will also be offering principal and interest payments deferrals on existing council loans upon request for the next six months.

NSW Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren branded the package as simply being too late for many councils which had been forced to stop projects, cut services, lose money and let staff go. “This could have all been avoided had the Government acted sooner,” Mr Warren said.

Monday, April 27, 2020.

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