Hunter Councils are banning together against a proposed increase to the Emergency Services Levy (ESL).
The ESL is a cost imposed on councils and the insurance industry to fund the emergency services budget in NSW. The majority is paid as part of insurance premiums, with a further 11.7 per cent picked up by councils and 14.6% by the state government itself.
The NSW Government has said they plan to scrap a subsidy put in place by the previous government to help Council’s pay for the ESL which has sent Council’s in the Hunter into meltdown.
The levy increase for the state’s 128 councils in 2023/24 alone sits just under $77 million.
It comes as Council’s have all just about finalised their operational plans and budgets for 2023/24.
At last night’s Newcastle Council meeting, a Lord Mayoral Minute noted “Council’s forced emergency services contribution is manifestly disproportionate to the 2023/24 rate cap, resulting in additional financial stress, with the unexpected cost hit due to absorb almost all IPART-approved rate rise for this year and in some cases absorb more than 100 per cent, for many councils.”
Councillors unanimously supported writing to the Chair of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority (IPART), noting the financial sustainability impacts of the ESL on the Local Government sector.
Newcastle Council joined Lake Macquarie Council and Maitland Council who have both made the same unanimous decisions at their respective Council meetings in the last week.
Cessnock City Council also expressed their strong opposition to the change, as has Dungog and Singleton over the last month.