INVERELL HIT WITH $69,000 BILL
27 June 2019
RURAL communities across NSW are being hit with unexpectedly large charges to help fund the NSW Government’s new measures to provide better workers’ compensation coverage for volunteer and career firefighters who are diagnosed with one of twelve specific work-related cancers.
The changes begin on 1 July this year and Cr Harmon says Inverell Shire will be paying an increase of $69,979 in the 2019-20 year, with a similar hike the following year.
“Regional and rural councils will be hardest hit – with just under 99 per cent of the state in drought, the last thing they need is an unexpected hit to budgets, and therefore the services they can offer communities”.
Cr Harmon said the unexpected announcement from the NSW Government came just as council was in the final stages of setting budgets for the upcoming financial year.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Cr Linda Scott said while councils strongly supported the new workers’ compensation coverage, the NSW Government had chosen to pass on these significant additional charges rather than identifying savings in the state government’s budget.
“Across NSW, many volunteer firefighters are also elected councillors or staff of local governments.
“Local government fully supports moves to ensure fair workers’ compensation for volunteer and career firefighters in NSW.
“The NSW Government’s decision to pass on significantly increased costs to councils and communities via their rates will mean councils need to make a difficult choice about which vital services they reduce or discontinue for their communities.”
Each year, the NSW Government collects payments from councils and insurers to fund emergency services agencies in NSW, with councils required to pay 11.7 per cent of the budget. These charges are embedded in council rates and insurance premiums.
When the Bill was passed late last year, the 128 councils in NSW were not informed or consulted about the NSW Government’s decision and as a result the financial implications were unknown until councils received invoices from Revenue NSW recently.
The NSW Government will now collect an additional $160 million from councils from 1 July 2019 to pay for its new workers’ compensation provisions for firefighters.
Council contributions alone would rise by $19 million in 2019-20, of which $14 million is to support volunteer and career firefighters diagnosed with cancer.
For Inverell Council, the bill is a 21.6 per cent hike on existing emergency services contributions.
Local Government NSW has indicated they will pursue the issue with the new Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock MP, to help councils manage this unnecessary budget issue.
“I’m hopeful Minister Hancock and her ministerial colleagues will be able to find a sensible outcome so communities aren’t disadvantaged by the government’s implementation of this important policy,” Cr Scott said.
For further information contact:
Fiona Adams | Inverell Shire Council| PO Box 138, Inverell NSW 2360 | (02) 6728 8288 | Fiona.Adams@inverell.nsw.gov.au