Councils consider holding firm on rates

Councils consider holding firm on rates

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"We need to be on the front foot with this," said Moora Shire president Ken Seymour.

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LOCAL governments around WA are holding emergency meetings to figure out how to best respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and help their local communities.

This is on the back of the WA Local Government Association recommendation for councils to not increase rates this year.

Moora Shire president Ken Seymour said the council had scheduled its local emergency management committee meetings, which were usually held four times a year, to once a week to help respond to the crisis.

"We need to be on the front foot with this," Mr Seymour said.

"Some of the measures we've already decided on are having a vehicle that will be exclusively used for the home delivery of food to assist those who are self-isolating.

"We are compiling lists of people who want to, or are self-isolating so we can keep their supplies up if need be."

Mr Seymour said the council supported WALGA's recommendation to not increase council rates and they were looking at providing the option for the rates to be partly paid.

He said although it was important to be proactive in times of crisis, the State and Federal governments needed to take a more measured approach in the rolling out of their stimulus packages, for fear of running out of resources too quickly.

"No one knows how long this situation is going to last - it could be 12 months, it could be 18 months, so we're quite concerned that these stimulus packages are coming out too early with not enough thought being put into them," Mr Seymour said.

"If local governments exhaust their cash supplies too soon we will be in the same boat as the Federal and State governments, so our shire will be taking a more measured approach."

Narrogin Shire president Leigh Ballard said its council was budgeting around not increasing rates and wouldn't be introducing any new fees or charges.

The Narrogin Shire was also working with its executives to realign its priorities to best respond to the impact of the coronavirus.

"We are seeing what projects can we bring forward that will help stimulate our local economy and are looking at every avenue we can to try and lessen the effects on our community, but it will be an ongoing process," Mr Ballard said.

The Shire plans to double its community grant program to $50,000 to help out its local community and sporting groups.

WALGA president mayor Tracey Roberts said the sector was focussed on supporting households, small business and community sporting and cultural groups.

"Local governments across the State are doing all they can to support their local communities and I know if it were financially possible all Local Governments would keep rates down and offer reductions," Ms Roberts said.

"However I also know many councils support their communities in other ways including provision of housing and support for medical and emergency services."

A suite of measures endorsed by WALGA include the review of local council fees and charges, bringing forward capital works and infrastructure spending and prioritising local government spending with businesses and contractors located within the regions.

Mr Seymour said although the pandemic situation was unprecedented, the economic impacts of COVID-19 were not entirely unfamiliar to the broadacre farming community, who often endure droughts and bad years.

"In those tough years, farmers tighten their belts and wait it out, so hopefully through this crisis Australia will wake up and realise food is king and see some value in that old saying 'an army marches on its stomach'," he said.

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