Budget shortfall as workers compensation bill increases

A new levy to protect emergency service workers will leave the council with an unplanned budget shortfall of around $100,000.

In October 2018, the State Government introduced changes to legislation to protect firefighters diagnosed with one of 12 types of cancers. The new laws would make access to workers compensation for volunteer and paid firefighters easier.

New workers compensation for firefighters will increase council's bill for emergency services by around $100,000.

New workers compensation for firefighters will increase council's bill for emergency services by around $100,000.

The changes begin on July 1 this year.

As a result, the Upper Lachlan Shire Council's (ULSC) Emergency Services Levy which was anticipated to increase by 2 per cent in 2019-20 has increased by 24.42pc ($108,844.64).

In a media release on May 4, the Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott said the funding would be shared between insurers, councils and the government.

However, the local government said there has been no consultation until a letter was received this week. "The local government sector was at no point advised that it would be required to cover the cost via significant increases to the Emergency Services Levy, or what the cost would be."

While the council supports the changes to protect firefighters it has left the budget with a shortfall of $99,713. The council already expend $445,466.28 on emergency services.

The City of Sydney Councils estimated costs are $221,000.

All 128 local councils in NSW were advised that there would be further increases in 2020-21.

At the council meeting on Thursday, May 16 Mayor John Stafford and the councillors supported a call to arms by the council's peak body Local Government NSW (LGNSW).

"Many councils are in the final stages of setting their budgets for the coming year and had no warning of these additional costs to cover an unfunded commitment by the NSW Government," president of LGNSW Linda Scott said.

"Regional and rural councils will be hardest hit - many are drought affected so the last thing they need is an unexpected hit to their budgets, and therefore the services they can offer communities."

The council has requested that the NSW Government will defer the increase, and to redesign the future funding mechanism for the scheme to ensure fairness in the future.

The NSW Government would receive an additional $160 million from councils, communities and those paying insurance premiums from July 1, 2019. The councils' contributions would rise by $19 million, of which $14 million would support volunteer and paid firefighters diagnosed with cancer.