Narrabri Shire Council has proposed to freeze shire rates and charges next financial year.

Councillors considering the Draft 2020/21 Operational Plan (budget) for the coming year voted to hold rates and charges at their current levels in response to the significant economic impacts of the long drought, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public submissions are invited on the Draft Operational Plan which is currently on public exhibition until Monday, June 22.

The draft plan outlines the proposed Council projects, programs, and activities for 2020/2021.

The plan also includes the proposed fees and charges for the new financial year as well as estimated expenditure and income.

“Council has endorsed the draft plan which proposes not to increase rates by the legislated rate pegging amount for the next financial year in response to the economic impacts placed on the community as a combined result of the drought and the COVID-19 pandemic” council said in a statement. The draft plan and all associated documentation is available on the council’s website.

Cr Ron Campbell successfully moved for the freeze in rates and charges.

Councillors generally agreed that the environment was not conducive to a rate increase.

The current crisis, on the back of the drought, was not the time to raise rates and charges, Cr Campbell said.

“Anyone in business could not raise rates in the current environment and neither should the council.”

The rates and charges freeze decision came after two extraordinary meetings of council, May 19 and 22, to discuss the council’s draft operational plan for the coming year.

During discussion of the draft operational plans at the May 19 meeting, Cr Campbell said, a number of councillors had concerns that ‘in good faith they could not look at a rate rise and a rise in fees and charges under these current circumstances.’

“They believed that council could not run ‘business as usual’ when many people in the shire community were suffering under the drought and COVID-19 crisis, and argued that rates, fees and charges be frozen.”

Council unanimously agreed to reconvene three days later on May 22 for further discussion on the draft plan and consider incorporating a freeze when council staff tabled analysis of the outcome of a ‘freeze on rates and charges’ scenario.

At that meeting, two other rates and charges scenarios were put forward but not agreed to.

Cr Campbell, seconded by Cr Campey, ultimately moved that all rates and fees and charges be frozen and this was adopted 5-3.

Meanwhile, separate from the draft operational plan and the rates freeze decision, the council agreed to a further rate relief move.

“Council resolved to delay the due date of the first instalment of the 2020/2021 rates until September 30, 2020,” the mayor Cathy Redding said.

Anyone experiencing difficulties in paying their rates or has any concerns can contact the council on 02 6799 6866 or council@narrabri.nsw.gov.au, council has advised.

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