NSW Parliament has passed a range of legislative amendments to equip citizens, businesses and the justice system to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes build on the legislation enacted in late March and include a series of legislative amendments across a range of portfolios including changes to the Local Government Act.
The NSW Government is committed to supporting councils and communities across the State experiencing difficulties due the COVID-19 pandemic as well as bushfires and drought.
The changes help ensure councils have flexibility to appropriately manage their finances while protecting their community from increasing financial pressures during difficult times.
The Local Government Act has been amended to allow councils to apply IPART’s annual rate peg more flexibly to respond to short-term changes in their community’s ability to pay while ensuring long-term financial sustainability.
The Government is also preventing any council from taking legal action to recover outstanding rates and charges for six months for ratepayers experiencing financial hardship.
This measure will reduce the financial burden and support the health and welfare of residents and business owners across NSW during this difficult time.
The Government also recognises the challenges councils face in minimising job losses and managing and retaining staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legislative changes have been made to provide greater flexibility around leave entitlements for council employees.
The changes will allow council employees to cash out their annual leave or take it at half or double pay.
They will also provide greater and more flexible access to long service leave.
Council employees will be able to take their long service leave in multiple periods of not less than one day. This will provide an alternative to standing down an employee by allowing long service leave to be used to reduce the number of working days in a week (e.g. three days working, two days long service leave).
The changes also allow councils to reduce excess leave liabilities.
The Office of Local Government will issue further detailed advice about the reforms to councils shortly.