Councils across NSW are wanting the government to stop a hike in the emergency services levy.
Councils across NSW are wanting the government to stop a hike in the emergency services levy. Alison Paterson

Councils' Emergency Services Levy hike not tenable: Saffin

COUNTRY Mayors are petitioning the NSW government to stop the hike in the Emergency Services Levy for 2019-20.

If the hike goes ahead, it could cost councils thousands of dollars in fees, with Lismore Council facing the highest increase of $124,300 in the region.

Lismore MP Janelle Saffin said she stood with Tenterfield Shire, Kyogle Shire, Lismore City and Tweed Shire councils in fighting another example of cost shifting which had come "out of the blue” after the state election and would impact on draft budgets.

Ms Saffin said the issue would be top of the agenda when the Country Mayors Association of NSW executive were meeting with NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock at Parliament on Friday, May 31.

"I put a question on notice to Minister Hancock as soon as local mayors raised this issue with me,” Ms Saffin said.

"I know Country Mayors president Cr Katrina Humphries believes this is cost shifting at its cheekiest and that many councils, already struggling to meet the Government's Fit For The Future benchmarks, will simply refuse to pay the increase,” she said.

"No one is arguing about the need to increase the levy towards covering new workers' compensation changes for volunteer and career firefighters affected by work-related cancers ... that is right and proper ... but the NSW Government should pick up the tab.

"Local Government NSW is calling for the NSW Government to cover the initial additional $19-million increase to local councils (representing 11.7 per cent of the increase) for the first year.

"Local Government NSW is also calling for the NSW Government to work with local councils to redesign the funding mechanism for the scheme to ensure fairness into the future. Lismore City Council and Tweed Shire Council support this campaign.”

Ms Saffin said councils earlier this month were sent bills from Revenue NSW detailing their new 11.7 per cent contributions to the levy, which were higher in real terms, ranging from 13 per cent to 24 per cent year-on-year increases.

"The dollar increases were $124,300 Lismore City; $97,670 for Tweed Shire; about $70,000 for Tenterfield Shire and about $50,000 for Kyogle Shire - all unplanned costs which could result in cuts to planned services, hurting local communities,” she said.