WELCOME MINISTER HANCOCK – We took the opportunity to welcome the Minister for Local Government, the Hon Shelley Hancock, to her new portfolio this morning and noted the positive reception she has received from our councils.
I’m pleased the Minister is committed to working as an equal partner to develop an intergovernmental agreement, in line with the Premier’s commitment during the NSW State Election.
As we committed to you, we raised a wide range of matters where we wish to work with the Minister on reform of local government, especially on the financial sustainability of our sector.
I thanked the Minister for her advocacy to date on the issue of sudden increases to the emergency services levy (ESL). We look forward to working with the Minister to encourage her colleagues to consider the need for the NSW Government to cover the cost of the increases for the first year, and work with councils to redesign the funding arrangements to ensure fairness for councils and communities.
We look forward to talking with Minister Hancock regularly to progress these and other issues on behalf of members.
EMERGENCY SERVICES LEVY ADVOCACY – The sudden and large ESL bill increases dominated our agenda this week.
As many councils would now know, the higher charges reflect the NSW Government’s expected increase in costs ($160 million) to provide better workers’ compensation coverage for firefighters diagnosed with one of 12 specific work-related cancers.
Thank you to the many councils that have contacted us expressing strong support for the new workers’ compensation scheme, but deep concerns about the significantly increased costs passed on to councils with no consultation, particularly at this time when budgets for the coming year are already committed.
LGNSW strongly supports fair and appropriate workers’ compensation for firefighters – and all emergency workers.
However, we are concerned about the Government’s decision to implement this scheme by billing councils for the additional costs.
Here’s what we know:
- The State Government has increased council contributions by $19 million in 2019-20, of which $14 million is to support volunteer and career firefighters diagnosed with cancer.
- Future increases are also foreshadowed.
We are calling upon the NSW Government to:
- fund the increased cost of the ESL for the first year, and
- work with local governments to design a better, fairer funding mechanism in future.
Here’s what you can do:
- Ask your council to consider our draft mayoral minute;
- Share your concerns about the implementation of this scheme via media and social media (see our media release),
For more details and to share your councils’ actions with us, please contact Mark Hely at LGNSW.
PLACING RURAL HEALTH ON THE NATIONAL AGENDA – In the lead up to the federal election, we worked with Temora and neighbouring councils to host another of our summits, this time focussed on regional health.
As the only sphere of government embedded in rural and small communities, councils often take on extra responsibility where the needs of their communities are unmet by state and federal governments. This summit brought councils together to discuss health initiatives and experiences. The urgent need for all levels of government to work in partnership to engage doctors in rural towns was highlighted at our 2018 annual conference. Thanks to our hosts, panellists and all who attended.
COUNCIL VISITS –Thank you to mayors, councillors and staff from Coolamon, Temora, Hilltops, Cootamundra-Gundagai and Junee councils who met with us this week to share their thoughts for our future advocacy agenda.
Photos: Visiting Coolamon, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Hilltops, Temora and Junee councils; the front page of the Temora Independent newspaper highlighted our summit.