Council calls on NSW Government to fund Emergency Services Levy increase

Mayor of the Dubbo Region Ben Shields has called a 20 per cent increase in Dubbo Regional Council’s Emergency Services Levy for 2019-20 excessive and called on the NSW Government to fund the almost $200,000 increase from the previous year.

Every year Councils are required to make payments to the State Government to help fund emergency services agencies. Council contributions make up 11.7 per cent of the budget required for NSW Emergency Services, with contributions also made by communities and those paying insurance premiums.

From 1 July 2019, the Government plans to collect an additional $160 million (for 2019-20) to provide better workers’ compensation coverage for volunteer and career firefighters who are diagnosed with one of 12 specific work-related cancers.

This will force Councils across the state to contribute an extra $19 million for 2019-20, with Dubbo Regional Council hit with an annual fee of $1,219,427. This is an increase of $198,137 on the previous 12 months, and the Government has foreshadowed further increases next year.

Council has already released its draft budget for 2019-20 and the surprise increase, which wasn’t indicated to Council until May 2019, will force an adjustment if it is required.

Councillor Shields said he and the Council supported better conditions for emergency service workers but said the NSW Government was being unreasonable by springing such large increases onto Councils with almost no notice.

“Communities like Dubbo are built on the great work done by our emergency service personnel, both volunteer and professional, and I think everyone feels they have the right to proper protection and compensation,” Councillor Shields said.

“However the Government is asking Council for a 20 per cent increase and has done so with no warning.

“This Council has taken a very responsible approach to finance and has made significant savings but that money should go to projects that benefit the local community, not cost-shifting from higher levels of government.”

Peak industry body Local Government NSW has called on the State Government to fund the first 12 months of the increase and work with Councils to revise the funding mechanism, a stance Councillor Shields said Dubbo Regional Council would support.

“I feel the fair thing to do is for the Government to cover the additional contributions for all Councils for 2019-20 and then work with local government towards the implementation of a fairer system for the future,” Councillor Shields said.

Last Edited: 06 Jun 2019

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