|Councillor Ben Shaw in his video message.|
THE following is a lightly edited transcription of yesterday’s video message by mayor Ben Shaw, explaining the cancellation of last night’s special council meetings.
“Hi everybody, just a quick update from here at council. We were supposed to be having a special council meeting tonight, to deal with some very serious issues in terms of support packages for our community.
“It was a special meeting because we felt that we really wanted to respond, as a lot of our colleagues around the state and other councils around the state have put some interim support packages for their community. We wanted to do the same. Unfortunately, I’m here to advise that we’ve had to cancel tonight’s special council meeting and for a couple of reasons.
“Legislation has recently been passed and sort of pushed through the parliament to allow councils to have meetings off-line. So we’re adhering to the social distancing rules and having less people in meeting rooms and those types of things.
“So they’ve made the ruling, or, sorry they’ve passed legislation that says that we can have meetings off-line. We can have the via Skype or meetings online and then push them out into the public that way. However, we’ve found out today that the ministerial order hasn’t actually been signed yet.
“So we’ve had to pull our meeting today because we really don’t, we really want to make sure that the meeting is lawful and we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing. Also, this is a crazy world that we’re currently living in. Things are changing daily.
“We’re not currently set up with technology for all of our elected members to be able to attend meetings at home or at their office or or practicing good social distancing. So we really want to make sure that all of our elected members and our staff could be involved in a meeting in a safe way. So we’ve had to pull that meeting for tonight.
“I’m going to shortly go through what the main motion around that community support package was, but just for your reference we will be dealing with this at our April meeting on the 16th of April. So we will re-advertise the 16th of April meeting, obviously we’ve got Easter in between there.
“But we just wanted you to know that we will, and we are looking at community support packages, and the motion that was going tonight, and if you hadn’t seen it already, I’ll just refer to my notes here.
“Firstly was to suspend all debt recovery actions against community members for outstanding rates and charges. So essentially, if you already have outstanding rates and charges and you are struggling to pay, we will not be pursuing any action against you. We’ll make sure that any debt recovery action is suspended and that will be for until the end of the year. So that’s one thing, we know that people are doing it really tough, we know the COVID-19 has played havoc with people’s finances, so that’s something that we really want to make sure is there.
“We’ll also be looking to cease charges of interest on outstanding rates. So normally there’s an interest component, compounding interest component. If you are outstanding rates we will not be charging those in these times as well. And that’ll be to 30 June 2021. So that’s another one.
“Item three was encourage payment arrangements, which we can already do, so we want to make it very clear that if you are struggling and it is because of COVID-19 or any other sort of financial stress, please call or email the council office and try and set up yourself some payment arrangements. We’re going to try and formalise that with this motion we’ll put to the April meeting. But if you are struggling right now, please contact somebody at council and make arrangements. Because we understand it’s challenging time. We don’t make any tougher. So please make sure you give us a call.
“Also, there’s the waiving, potential waiving, of the two-week notification period for the Valley Children’s Centre. So generally you would have to give two weeks notice to remove your children from the centre and you have to also pay for those two weeks. So we’re proposing to make sure we take that burden off families and people who really need that extra cash. If you need to pull your children out because you’re concerned, because you’ve lost your job and you’re going to be at home or whatever reason, you can do that without any penalty, or potentially do that without any penalty.
“We’re also looking at waiving the dog registration fees for the whole year of 2020 and half of 2021, so 30th of June, 2021. We know that not everybody has dogs, but certainly that’s one thing that we can do here at council potentially to try and ease that financial burden on our community. Also, the waiving of kennel licence till the 30th of June, 2021. So you still have to apply, you’ll still have to register your dogs. You still have to apply and register for a kennel licence. If this motion is passed on the 16th of April, you will not have to pay those fees, but you will need to still register and apply.
“Also, we’re looking at helping out small businesses, in a very small way initially, but we’ll be looking at some more things into the future. So at this stage we are looking to waive fees for food licences and health inspections. So again, you’ll still need to apply for your food licence. You’ll still need to have your health inspections up to date and regular. But we are proposing to not charge you for that again until the 30th of June, 2021. And that’s hopefully just to try and ease that burden through this period and hopefully we’re back out of it sort of late this year and early next year and we’re all sort of ripping back into having very successful businesses.
“There’s also, we’re looking at reviewing the capacity of lessees to pay for council properties. So if there’s anybody who rents a council property or leases a council property, we are going to try and negotiate some licence fees and some rental fees on those things, so, again, this isn’t passed, we were supposed to have a meeting tonight and it will be at the 16th of April meeting. So I look out for that.
“But I wanted to let people know that we are looking at community support packages. It is very difficult for us at council land to do these things because our only income is from our fees and charges and from our rates. So we need that income to a) support our our staff and our community to deliver the services that you require, and b) to keep our community running.
“So we are definitely trying and looking at measures that don’t negatively impact too much on council’s income, but can actually support our community. Again, we will be looking at other measures to try and support our business community as well, our small business community.
“We absolutely understand that our tourism, our business community are the lifeblood of the Derwent Valley and we want to make sure that everybody has a chance to continue their businesses and services into the future after this horrible COVID-19 situation is over.
“So that’s where the motion is going. Just to let everybody know that, yes, rates are actually currently due and what we’re saying here, we’re trying to put packages into place to support people that are under financial stress. At this stage, fortunately there is people that still have their jobs, can still afford to pay.
“We still need people to make sure they’re paying their rates and make sure they’re doing the right thing. And that’s to support the council to continue their services. But also allows us, if we have that if we have that support in there, we can support the more vulnerable people in our community, the people that have lost their jobs, the people that have no income at the moment. We can try and push out more packages to support them. So we do need your support as well. So we need to make sure that that’s sort of in place as well.
“Finally, look, we just want to make sure that everybody’s safe and okay. I’ve heard around the place that we actually are really doing a really good job at social distancing. We’ve done a really good job of staying at home, staying away from sort of play equipment and those types of things. I know that it’s confusing and I know that it’s frustrating.
“Look, keep following the government websites, keep following the Frequently Asked Questions. Look, from our frontline service workers, which is our council staff as well, because we’re out in the community, we’re dealing with you on day to day basis, look, be kind, be courteous, be safe. Make sure we’re doing the same when we’re at the supermarket, make sure we’re doing the same with all our other fantastic frontline service workers and essential workers because they are going through just as much stress as what everybody else is. Understandably, they’re still at work, but you know we’re all under stress, make sure we’re looking after each other.
“Look, practise good hygiene, practise your good social distancing, and again, if you can stay at home, please stay at home. We’re all in this together. Let’s get through it all together and push on through to a strong Derwent Valley community into the future.”