At its General Meeting, Hornsby Shire Council adopted a special Mayoral Minute outlining its strong opposition to the NSW Government’s last-minute decision to impose an enormous Emergency Services Levy (ESL) cost increase on councils for 2023/24. By scrapping the ESL subsidy, this will impact Council’s budget by $1.8 million.
The ESL is a cost imposed on councils and insurance policy holders to fund the emergency services budget in NSW. The majority is paid as part of insurance premiums, with a further 11.7 per cent funded by councils and 14.6 per cent by the NSW Government. The NSW Government recently announced plans to scrap the ESL subsidies which will shift costs back to councils.
The timing of this development is particularly challenging for councils as it comes so late in the local government budgeting cycle, well after IPART’s rate determination for the coming financial year.
Mayor Philip Ruddock talked about the impact the changes would have on Hornsby Shire Council.
“Hornsby Shire Council’s ESL contribution has increased from an expected $2.3m in 2022/23 to $4.1 million in 2023/24. This increase is comprised of a $630k increase in the emergency levy, and a $1.17m hit from the removal of the rebate previously provided by the State. This additional $1.8m amounts to 69 per cent of the expected increase in rate income for 2023/24 from the 3.7% rate peg. If the NSW Government’s decision is not reversed, we will have less financial capacity to provide essential community services and infrastructure into the future,” said Mayor Ruddock.
“All councils including Hornsby strongly support a well-funded emergency services sector and the critical contribution of emergency services workers and volunteers (many of whom are councillors and council staff). However, it is essential that these services be supported through an equitable, transparent and sustainable funding model. We thank Local Government NSW for representing councils on this matter and hope that our combined voices will be heard,” Mayor Ruddock continued.
Council resolved unanimously to join with other NSW councils to write to key members of parliament and agencies on this matter. We will write to the Treasurer, the Minister for Emergency Services, the Minister for Local Government and local state members expressing our opposition to the decision, which comes at a time after we have publicly exhibited our Operational Plan and annual budget, and we note the impact these changes may have on community services and infrastructure projects.
We call on the NSW Government to take immediate action to restore the ESL subsidy in 2023/24, urgently introduce legislation to decouple the ESL from the rate peg, and develop a fairer, more transparent and financially sustainable method of funding critically important emergency services in consultation with local government.
We will write to the Chair of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) advising that our forced emergency services contribution is manifestly disproportionate to the 2023/24 rate cap, which has resulted in additional financial stress.
We will also write to the President of Local Government NSW seeking the Association’s ongoing advocacy to bring about a relief in the burden of councils’ emergency services contribution.
A copy of the full Mayoral Minute is available at hornsby.nsw.gov.au
Also at last night’s meeting Council:
- Adopted the Housekeeping Amendments to the Community Engagement Plan
- Received and noted the March 2023 Quarter Review of the Operational Plan (Budget) for 2022/23
- Approved the draft amendments to the Hornsby Development Control Plan 2013
- Received and noted reporting variations to the Development Standard
- Endorsed a Notice of Motion by Councillor Tilbury calling for the NSW Government to uphold its commitment to make upgrades to New Line Road
- Endorsed the draft Property Strategy for public exhibition.
The full agenda of the meeting, along with details of each item discussed, can be found at hornsby.nsw.gov.au.