It’s an understatement to say that these are challenging times, made even more so because of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 response. We simply don’t know how long it will last, or what actions will be required next. But what you can count on is that Singleton Council is here for you no matter what, most fundamentally in the ongoing provision of essential services and the preservation of the function of our community both during the crisis and in the rebuilding period.
As General Manager, under the guidance of the Mayor and elected Councillors, we also know we have a role to play in directly supporting our residents and businesses in these difficult circumstances.
Without a precedent to follow and because of the constant changes that characterise the COVID-19 situation, it’s difficult to know the best course to take. We won’t get it right every time, but we will keep trying our hardest. And that is why our Community Support Package is based on what we believe is the right thing to do for our residents and businesses now, while maintaining flexibility to respond to circumstances as they unfold.
We are spending an unbudgeted $1.8 million as part our package to date, including $500,000 for a raft of economic and social development programs.
A key component of our package is a proposedrates and charges rebate scheme, which means anyone who pays residential, business or farming rates and is financially impacted by COVID-19 will not pay a cent more for rates, waste and fixed water and sewer charges in 2020-21 than they did last year. What’s more, it will be easy for anyone in our community to qualify and apply, and for our staff to administer so there is no confusion and no frustration for people to access the help they need.
At the time of writing, Singleton is the only council in the Hunter to offer a rates rebate package. And that’s while we already have some of the lowest rates and charges compared to other Hunter Councils, including:
- the fifth lowest average residential rate;
- the fourth lowest average Farmland rate;
- the third lowest average business rate;
- the third lowest average domestic waste management charge;
- the second lowest typical residential water bill; and
- the second lowest annual typical residential sewer bill.
Further, we have tightened our financial management so that between 2016 and the proposed 2021 budget, Council’s operational expenditure has increased by less than 1% per annum. With limited increases in operational expenditure and increases in rate incomes, we have been able to improve and maintain community assets, delivering on Council’s promise to spend more money on asset maintenance and renewal.
As a Council, our purpose is to support the needs and wishes of the people of Singleton to create the community they are proud to be part of.
In these challenging times, we are fortunate to be in a position to ramp up the actions we can take now, as well as put measures in place to help rebuild our community post COVID-19 and enhance the resilience and sustainability of our LGA into the future.
We’re also asking for direct feedback from our residents and businesses about how COVID-19 has affected you, and what assistance you need. I would ask all residents and businesses in Singleton to take our household or business surveys to help inform what further action we can take. For more details about the survey, or for more information about the Community Support Package, visit Council’s website or Facebook page, or give us a call on 02 6578 7290.
Jason Linnane, General Manger, Singleton Council