Emergency Services Levy hike reprieve for Tenterfield

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin has welcomed a backdown by the state government to give local councils a one-year reprieve from having to pay hefty increases in the Emergency Services Levy.

Ms Saffin has strongly backed Tenterfield Shire, Kyogle Shire, Lismore City and Tweed Shire Councils' campaign against another example of cost shifting which sent shockwaves through local government when it was imposed in May.

"I hope this government will learn a lesson from this debacle, that you don't just dump a big bill on councils, and in effect ratepayers, with scant warning or consultation and expect people to wear it," Ms Saffin said.

"No wonder the Country Mayors Association of NSW and Local Government NSW arced up and rejected such a heavy-handed approach.

"The one-year reprieve for councils is welcome because it will save our four local councils a total of $341,970 in 2019-2020 and it means 128 councils across NSW will not have to find $13.6 million out of thin air."

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In Tenterfield's case the increase was 24 per cent, or just short of $70,000, on last year's levy. Councillors resolved at the May meeting to support Local Government NSW advocacy on the matter and to pay only an increase of 2.7 per cent on last year's levy, reflecting the state government-imposed rates cap for the year.

With Tenterfield and most other councils then having their 2019/20 budgets in place, the arrival of the inflated bill without notice upset the books.

Chief executive Terry Dodds said the first quarterly payment hasn't fallen due yet, so council's not out of pocket.

With everything going on here, this is really going to make a difference.

Terry Dodds

"With everything going on here, this is really going to make a difference."

He said council has had a lot on its plate of late. Last year is was the timber bridges, which is almost now dealt with, then we had the fires and now a lot of the council's energies have been invested in finding water.

Ms Saffin said the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government now should work with local councils to redesign the funding mechanism to ensure fairness into the future.

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