BALANCING ACT: Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi says he want to help the community, but councillors will have to weight that up against the potential costs.
BALANCING ACT: Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi says he want to help the community, but councillors will have to weight that up against the potential costs.

Councillors propose new financial assistance measures

SOUTHERN Downs councillors are expected to vote on the first stage of coronavirus economic recovery during a special council meeting tomorrow.

The proposal was created in partnership with the Local Disaster Management Group with the aim of supporting the community through economic hardship.

Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi said councillors had engaged in long discussions to determine how to best provide the necessary financial assistance.

"We wanted to figure out how we can help as much as we possibly can," Cr Pennisi said.

"There are businesses out there suffering because of this invisible enemy, and the fallout is real, it's tangible."

The first stage of the proposal will focus heavily on providing relief on council rates, fees and charges, whereas the second stage will feature a detailed recovery plan tailored to specific groups.

The second stage of proposals are yet to be finalised, but may include reductions in pedestal charges, an early release of refocused community grants program, an accelerated capital works program, partnerships to enhance community wellbeing and the potential for extended payment terms for rates and levies.

Councillors will also vote on the creation of two small scale Recovery Hub Centres, one in Warwick and one in Stanthorpe.

The centres would be established to facilitate communication between councillors and the community, as they seek to gather feedback and information to better meet the needs of their constituents.

The benefits of these measures would be considered against the consequences of delaying council cashflow and loss of interest revenue.

"There are some challenges out there, there's no question about that," Cr Pennisi said.

"A lot of our recovery plan is not in concrete yet, but we're working on it."

 

Councillors will consider the following Stage 1 proposals:

  • The extension of the payment period for water and sewerage levies issued in April 2020 up until the end of June 2020;
  • Waiving interest on overdue rates and charges calculated at 30 June 2020;
  • Suspension of debt recovery activities for all outstanding rates and charges;
  • Refund of fees and charges for forward bookings for community events which were cancelled as a result of COVID-19;
  • Waiving of fees for temporary event permits up until 31 December 2020;
  • Suspension of charging of interest on outstanding rates and charges;
  • Extension of the period of time that can be entered into for existing payment arrangements;
  • Accelerate the processing of payment of all invoices, wherever possible meeting a fourteen day time frame;
  • Waiving of food license fees for 2020/2021;
  • 50% reduction in all development assessment fees for any new applications, extensions to existing applications and operational works applications fees for 2020/2021;
  • Moratorium on the application of the Invasive Pest Control levy for 2020/21;
  • Refocus the Community Grants Program on COVID-19 recovery actions arising from the recovery plan for 2020/21.
  • Waive the rental accommodation license fees and caravan park permit fees for 2020/2021.


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