Council passes relief package to counter COVID-19 fallout
During an extraordinary meeting, Tamworth Regional Council passed a relief package to help counter the economic fallout from COVID-19. The focus of the proposal was mainly on providing a break to businesses, with a couple of items aimed at ratepayers. One of the measures included approving the suspension of rent for commercial properties - if the lessee applies until June. It also seeks the same consideration from all commercial landlords to the level of assistance they can receive from the state and federal governments. Car parking meters in the CBD will be turned off, but the time restrictions will remain in place. TRC will also waive accumulated interest to overdue fourth quarter 2020 rates instalments. Another measure will be to ensure no fees will be charged for the use of additional public space to provide take-away food services until June 30. A final recommendation added was that TRC would reimburse the water and sewer headworks charges that have been paid for any parcel of land developed and with a linen release date between March 1 and March 31 that currently remains unsold. The reimbursed amount will be subject to a legal agreement and will become a charge due or payable under Section 603 of the Local Government Act 1993 as a charge against the land. Mayor Col Murray said he was pleased the package received unanimous support from councillors. He added most of the initiatives would be up for review at the end of June. "We are anticipating the federal government will make some consideration for local government at its cabinet meeting on Wednesday," Cr Murray said. "We will be waiting with interest." Cr Murray said a lot of the council's activities are real businesses in themselves, and there have been severe impacts due to the pandemic, which will see a loss in revenue. "It will run into millions of dollars for this financial year, and who knows what for next financial year," he said. In response to questions as to whether this package was nothing more than a "PR stunt", Cr Murray said each councillor must accrue about 3400 votes and therefore make a fair representation for the public. He added that this is not the end of aid, and the council is working hard to come up with ways of how it can soften the blow. During the extraordinary meeting, a couple of councillors raised whether or not TRC should consider not raising the next round of rates. Cr Murray said he would be extremely cautious about making such a decision as any limitations on the increase will have a flow-on impact. "We can never get that back," he said. "We have got to be really careful about how we consider rate increases. I think it would be more incumbent and more prudent for the council to think about other measures which might give the short-term relief that we are seeking to achieve but in a more sustainable way."