President's Message 1 May 2020

This week, together, we secured a great result for NSW councils and communities with the NSW Government announcing a $395 million stimulus package, making it the first to provide COVID-19 support of this magnitude to the local government sector.

Thank you for joining us in advocating for this stimulus package by passing council resolutions and demonstrating the mounting pressures you’re under due to bushfires, drought and limited water supplies, and now this pandemic. So many of you have already acted to do what you can to protect council jobs, local government essential services, and local economies by signing up to the Splinter Award.

We are so pleased the NSW Treasurer and Minister for Local Government have recognised our sector’s efforts to combat the impacts of this crisis and supporting it by adding stimulus measures.  We are still working through the detail with the Office of Local Government (OLG) and appreciate your feedback on how the package will support your council.

I encourage all members to continue to inform, support, and promote our advocacy agenda. Refer to our video that highlights what we’ve achieved together, consistent with the resolutions from our Annual Conference and our Membership Satisfaction Survey. Please email Kelly Kwan, Executive Manager of LGNSW Advocacy to discuss LGNSW advocacy.

WINS! This week we welcomed:

$395 million local government economic stimulus package. 

LGNSW has offered to work with the Government to help ensure the objectives of the stimulus package are met. We’re working through the details of the package and requesting necessary changes to the criteria to ensure councils and their communities are supported. We have already identified changes that urgently need to be made to the Council Job Retention Allowance if it is to be accessible to councils, including financial distress criteria (currently set at a 30% reduction in own source revenue). We have raised this with the OLG.  

​The package currently includes:

  • $112.5 million for an NSW government Job Retention Allowance ($1,500 per fortnight qualifying staff for up to three months) drawn from the NSW Government’s Jobs for NSW fund. This Allowance operates in conjunction with the Local Government COVID-19 Splinter Award 2020 or equivalent agreement with industrial unions. Eligibility is subject to criteria including councils being party to the Splinter Award (or equivalent agreement with industrial unions) and providing OLG with evidence of financial distress. Refer to the OLG FAQ resource. For further information, email LGNSW Workplace Relations Unit.
  • $32.8 million to help councils meet increases in the 2020/21 Emergency Services Levy over and above the $13.6 million provided to councils last year, to help them manage overnight levy increases of up to $220,000.
  • $250 million in low-cost loans to kick-start community infrastructure projects, through the State’s TCorp borrowing facility. TCorp will also be offering principal and interest payments deferrals on existing council loans upon request for the next six months.

Up to $10,000 grants for the Regenerate Regional Event Initiative (COVID-19, Quick Response) to support arts and cultural organisations in regional NSW to commission the development of arts and cultural events featuring local artists with a focus on music and performance. For further information, email Damian Thomas, Strategy Manager.

BUILDING REFORM

I have written to the NSW Premier and Ministers for Better Regulation and Innovation, Planning and Public Spaces and Customer Service, seeking urgent progress on important building legislation in NSW, on your behalf. LGNSW is concerned any delays to building and construction sector reform may impact building quality and safety particularly for these new (and fast-tracked) developments. Refer to LGNSW media release.

HELP AMPLIFY OUR SECTOR'S ADVOCACY WORK

Councils stand ready to carry out shovel ready infrastructure projects which will inject money into the local economy, maximise the use of local suppliers and create local employment opportunities.

With your continued support, LGNSW intends to advocate for further locally led economic stimulus measures including the fast-tracking of State and Federal government funding for infrastructure programs, such as road infrastructure. We will be issuing a new Mayoral Minute and supporting materials, with a focus on calling on the State and Federal governments to increase and fast-track funding for infrastructure programs. I encourage you to send LGNSW your list of shovel ready projects to help inform our advocacy. Please email Shaun McBride, LGNSW Chief Economist.

GOVERNMENT CHANGES & UPDATES

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes joined us for a Member Only Forum this week to discuss a range of very topical planning issues and their impacts on councils. We look forward to continuing this important conversation with the Minister and agencies. As your representative on the Building Commissioner’s ‘Construct NSW Steering Committee’ I will continue to call for timely and comprehensive building reforms, consistent with our policy platform. I would also encourage all elected members to join our Building Reform Interest Group. For further information, email Jane Partridge, Strategy Manager – Planning.

  • NSW Government’s Priority Projects Criteria: Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes has released the set of guidelines which will effectively determine which development projects are to be fast-tracked through the approval process, and the first tranche of projects to be fast-tracked. Refer to LGNSW media release
  • Building reform: I have written to the NSW Premier and Ministers for Better Regulation and Innovation, Planning and Public Spaces and Customer Service, seeking urgent progress on important building legislation in NSW, on your behalf. LGNSW is concerned any delays to building and construction sector reform may impact building quality and safety particularly for these new (and fast-tracked) developments. Refer to LGNSW media release

REMINDER

Our next Live Event on the impacts of COVID-19 on local government will be held on Wednesday 6 May (from 11am-12pm) with special guest Federal Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government the Hon Mark Coulton MP. You will need to pre-register and details of the agenda and technical instructions will be provided shortly.