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Ministerial Circular 3 2020

This Act provided a power to enable the Minister to modify or suspend provisions of the Local Government Act 1995 and Regulations while a State of Emergency declaration is in force and where the Minister considers that such an order is necessary to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have made the first Order under this legislation to deal with issues relating to requirements to hold public meetings, for access to information when council offices are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and budgetary matters. This will be published on 8 May 2020, coming into effect on that day.

Some of these measures will assist ratepayers who have been adversely impacted by this COVID-19 pandemic. As you are displaying through your actions in freezing rates, fees and charges during these extraordinary times, it is vital to maximise assistance to get our economy back on track.

The Order recognises that the local government is in the best position to assess whether a person in their district is in hardship but does provide that those residential and small business ratepayers that are suffering financial hardship because of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be charged interest in the 2020/21 financial year. Local governments will be able to assess whether any other ratepayers are in hardship and should be provided with assistance.

Local governments are encouraged to adopt a financial hardship policy. This will address the manner in which the local government will deal with financial hardship that may be suffered by ratepayers and other persons who are required to make payments to the local government. Local governments with such a policy in place will be able to charge a maximum of 5.5% for instalment interest as they are formallyrecognising and providing for other groups that are in hardship. This recognises that the 5.5% will apply to those who wish to pay by instalments but are not in hardship.

If a local government does not have in place a financial hardship policy, the interest rate that can be charged for payment by instalments will be capped at 3%.

Interest rates that can be charged for late payments are being capped at 8%, which aligns with the interest rate charged by the Australian Taxation Office.

Other measures will directly assist local governments through removing red tape and compliance requirements which are not considered to be necessary while local governments and the community deal with the pandemic. This includes a number of measures that are designed to assist local governments that resolve to not increase the rate in the dollar from those applied last year.

The attachment details the modifications made to the operation of the Local Government Act 1995.

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the Western Australian Electoral Commission will continue to monitor council vacancies to determine if further orders are necessary to deal with electoral matters ona  case by case basis.

If you have any questions regarding these provisions, please contact the department at lgresponse@dlgsc.wa.gov.au

 

Yours sincerely

 

Hon David Templeman MLA

Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Culture and the Arts

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Page reviewed 30 July 2019