24/06/2020 - 16:04

Local Government Support is Beyond Dollars and Cents

24/06/2020 - 16:04


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At the frontline of the COVID-19 impact, Local Government has provided $512 million of financial relief and economic support across WA’s community.

At the frontline of the COVID-19 impact, Local Government has provided $512 million of financial relief and economic support across WA’s community.

But the impact of this response is beyond mere dollars and cents. It is about providing aid to the most vulnerable people of the community, ensuring the community is safe, playing an integral role in economic development and ensuring the local economy can recover from the pandemic.

Local Government has placed vulnerable people in the community at the front of mind. Across the regions and in metropolitan areas, a number of Local Governments have committed their staff members to provide and coordinate assistance for people experiencing hardship.

Besides delivering food and essential items, they have also established helplines for people who may need support during this crisis.

Rising to the challenge of the shutdown, Local Governments have created innovative ways to communicate and connect with the community. This is especially crucial in the climate of fear and anxiety during the pandemic, ensuring that people are not socially isolated.

Various Local Governments have gone online and livestreamed free events, including fitness challenges, craft sessions, self-care workshops and even ANZAC commemoration ceremonies.

The Shire of Denmark, with their Connected Community initiative, have brought together various talents and skills from the community. From karate to musical jam sessions, the residents can log on to the online group, and even collaborate a community choir singalong.

Despite facility closures during the shutdown, Councils have ensured the young ones are still taking part in their learning journeys. Library staff members bring book characters to life through virtual story time, and parents can access them on various social media sites.

City of Gosnells even organised an Easter delivery, which featured five easter bunnies riding along the back of fire trucks, delivering more than 35,000 eggs, along with smiles and laughter to the entire community.  

In the climate of job losses and lost income, Local Governments have found various ways to provide meaningful employment in the community.

The Shire of Corrigin has offered short term employment to any community members who have either lost their jobs or their hours reduced. The first week saw nine locals joining the Shire’s operations team, and giving the townsite gardens a tidy up.

City of Bayswater and City of Armadale are some of the metropolitan Councils which have re-engaged their casual staff from closed recreational facilities. Redeployed staff members helped pack and distribute food hampers to provide much-needed assistance to elderly and vulnerable residents.

This contribution is noteworthy, given it has been made in the face of hugely diminished revenues, without the support of federal Jobkeeper program.

The Local Government sector acknowledges the economic impact of the crisis, exacerbated by a sudden loss of employment or business closure, which has led to ratepayers experiencing considerable financial stress.

On top of providing financial support via hardship grants, rate freeze and fee waivers, Local Governments are also leading the community towards economic recovery.

A number of regional and metropolitan Local Governments have committed funding to support the local business community. The Shires of East Pilbara and Pingelly are providing gift vouchers, and the Shire of Narrogin has provided ‘Narrogin Dollars’ that can be spent on local businesses, which will increase immediate cash flow and generate revenue within the local economy.

Councils are also waiving rent for small business tenants of Local Government properties, along with reducing red tape and cutting fees for businesses.

Besides injecting funds, various Local Governments are also providing free consultation for business owners in partnership with business advisory agencies.

WALGA has also worked to support Local Governments by underwriting a VendorPanel platform for local suppliers to better access Council contracts.

Unavoidably, the impact from the crisis still saw town centres, which were normally hubs of business activities, affected by greatly reduced traffic flows.

One unavoidable result of the crisis was a great reduction in traffic flow around town centres; turning them from hubs of business activities into sparsely populated spaces.

In a proactive step towards recovery, various Local Governments have used this time to carry out additional maintenance or capital works, spurring job creation activities.

The spruced up sites will encourage visitors back to the area when the State recovers from the crisis, further aiding the local business community.

Ultimately, the scale and capacity of each Local Government is varied, due to the wide diversity between locations in WA.

But it is undeniable that every Local Government has taken action to support their community, either through reducing direct costs or adapting services.

The sector has an established, successful track record in managing recovery through various disasters, including leading the community towards recovering as the State emerges from the pandemic.

We are confident, and stand ready, to provide support to the WA communities, in partnership with the State and Federal Governments.

For details on Councils’ measures to help the community during this crisis, visit https://walga.asn.au/COVID-19/Councils-in-the-Community/


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