Local Government has welcomed news an increase in the Emergency Services Levy will be paid by the NSW Government this year saving the sector from a $13.6 million bill.
Acting Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro and the Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock say the State’s 128 councils would not have to pay the additional funds this financial year.
“The NSW Government acknowledges that this additional cost presented challenges for councils, particularly those in regional and rural areas badly affected by the drought,” Mr Barilaro says.
“That’s why the Government will fund the $13.6 million to cover the additional levy costs to support firefighters who develop cancer, to alleviate the immediate pressure on local councils.
“Our emergency services have long been funded through a cost-sharing arrangement between insurers, councils and the Government. It’s important that this continues.”
Mrs Hancock says, “We acknowledge that many councils had already developed and approved their 2019-20 Budgets before the invoices for the increased emergency services levy were issued and this has caused some angst.”
“We will continue to consult with local councils to better manage the impacts of the emergency services levy especially on their annual budgeting cycles,” she says.
This year, locally the impact of the levy increase amounted to $207,000 for Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Eurobodalla – $175,000, Bega Valley – $143,000, and Yass Valley – $114,000.
Speaking to Region Media in June, Yass Mayor and Chair of the Canberra Region Joint Organisation of councils, Rowena Abbey said, “There has been no consultation and from our perspective, the issue is that this is unbudgeted for and we are all about to adopt our budgets.”
Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain welcomes the news, “All credit to the NSW Government for listening.”
“We appreciate that further discussion is to come, everyone is keen to contribute and look after our emergency services, but we need to do it in a way that doesn’t impact on our bottom line and on ratepayers.
“If we’d been forced to pay this it would have meant a project not being funded or a service being cut.”
Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott says “The new laws enable eligible firefighters diagnosed with one of 12 cancers to automatically be presumed to have acquired that cancer because of their firefighting work.”
“These changes will ensure current and former firefighters – both volunteer and paid – who need care and support receive their entitlements immediately.”
NSW Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord has described the announcement as a “cruel and crafty hoax” on local government.
“The Berejiklian Government [is] just kicking the can down the road for another year,” Mr Secord says.
“This is not a fix. It is not a long-term plan.
“The Berejiklian Government is just giving the impression that it is bowing to pressure and the matter is still unresolved after more than two years.”
Cr McBain says Bega Valley Shire Council will be meeting with the Local Government Minister in Nowra on Friday to discuss the issue and other priorities.