Local Government NSW has commented on the “attack” from New South Wales Minister for Local Government, Ron Hoenig, regarding the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) – stating that local councils are “disappointed” in the outburst.
President of Local Government NSW Darriea Turley AM said the sector wanted to foster a strong working relationship with the new Labor Government and she was taken aback at the vociferous nature of the Minister’s attack in Parliament.
“I have held cordial but forthright talks with Minister Hoenig, the Treasurer Daniel Moohkey and the Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib in recent weeks about the huge imposition the massive increase in the Emergency Services Levy will have on local councils,” Cr Turley said.
“All three acknowledge the levy increase will hit some councils extremely hard and are of the view that a new funding model needs to be devised going forward.
“The surprise increase in the Emergency Services Levy imposed by the state government onto councils will undoubtedly lead to service cutbacks and job losses in some local government areas.
“So for the Minister to now conflate this issue with the Auditor-General’s report into Local Government is disappointing.
“We know that the Auditor-General’s report reflects that a number of councils have received qualified audits due to their refusal to include the depreciation cost of Rural Fire Service assets they neither own nor control. Prior to the March election, the then Labor Opposition voiced interest in resolving this matter in a number of public forums.
“We remain hopeful that the new NSW Government will change course on this nonsensical position, which seeks to dump depreciation costs for state assets onto council books to make state government budgets look better.
“Prior to the election in March the then Shadow Minister for Local Government also wrote to Local Government NSW on behalf of the Labor Opposition, making clear that the challenges facing councils had been ‘compounded by a decade-long practice of cost-shifting by the [previous] Government’ and highlighting the ‘decade long drain on local council resources’ as a result of state government actions.
“It is disappointing that post-election the new Minister’s messaging has now taken such an abrupt about face, although it is unclear if this represents the government’s official position.
“We are looking forward to working with the government in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, and I have written to Minister Hoenig to offer a briefing on the financial challenges faced by local government.
Cr Turley said she hopes this attack on councils by Minister Hoenig is not repeated and that instead a productive relationship can be developed based on consultation and mutual respect.