The NSW Government today announced a $395 million economic stimulus package to safeguard council jobs, and local services and infrastructure in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the COVID-19 crisis has hit councils hard financially and the NSW Government is determined to limit the impacts to keep more people in jobs and allow councils to deliver for communities across the State. “Our State’s 128 local councils are a critical part of the NSW economy, especially in many regional and rural towns where they are sometimes the largest employer,” Mr Perrottet said. “This about keeping people in jobs which will allow councils to continue to provide essential services in their communities throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and bounce back faster once we come out the other side.” The NSW Government’s local government economic stimulus package includes a $250 million increase in low-cost loans to eligible councils through the State’s borrowing facility provided by TCorp to kick-start community infrastructure projects. This increase brings this low-cost loan facility up to $1.35 billion for the benefit of councils and their communities. TCorp will also be offering principal and interest payments deferrals on existing council loans upon request for the next six months. The NSW Labor Opposition has however branded the Berejiklian Government’s $350 million Local Government stimulus package as being too late for many NSW Councils after weeks of uncertainty for local governments and local government workers.
Labor has also raised serious concerns that $250 million, the vast majority of funding in the package, is to be allocated as loans to councils, instead of direct funding for shovel ready projects.
Labor Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren said: “What has been announced today by the Berejiklian Government is simply too late for many councils by any measure.”
“Instead of being proactive when councils were first looking for assistance and leadership, the Government has been reactive and in the mean time councils have been forced to stop projects, cut services, lose money and let staff go. This could have all been avoided had the government acted sooner.”
“These loans are a slap in the face for local governments across NSW, particularly to those councils who can’t even apply for grant funding in normal circumstances due to the co-contribution component.”
“Now after what is effectively the third crisis faced by councils and their communities, including prolonged drought and bushfires, the government has generously asked Councils to pay back this supposed stimulus, with interest.”
“A greater debt burden will not see the local government sector emerge successfully from the coronavirus crisis”, Mr Warren said. Editors Note: This will be good news for Eurobodalla Council who have several loans with TCorp that cover part of the acquisition of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site along with the Potato Point Sewerage project blowout. In all Council has $7.8m in loans, secured over the general rating income of Council. Other measures in the NSW Government $395 million economic stimulus package will include: Up to $112.5 million from the NSW Government’s ‘Jobs for NSW’ Fund to support a Council Job Retention Allowance of $1,500 per fortnight per employee to limit job losses in the NSW local government sector. The allowance will be paid for up to three months to qualifying staff working in the NSW local government sector. $32.8 million to assist councils meet the cost of the FY2020/21 increase in the Emergency Services Levy. Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said this comprehensive package safeguards valuable council jobs and ensures staff with a wide range of skills and experience can continue to serve their communities. “This funding injection enables councils to redirect funds to critical core services and deliver much-needed financial support for local communities,” Mrs Hancock said. “Importantly, this package builds on the NSW Government’s $82 million to support 260 council-run childcare centres and $25 million for local councils to rebuild and refurbish local showgrounds, bringing our total support for the local government sector to over half a billion dollars.”
Video message from Minister Hancock
Local Government Economic Stimulus Package