Most Tasmanian councils should remain financially sustainable in the coming years though this would be at threat should a second outbreak of coronavirus occur in Tasmania.
Local Government Association of Tasmania chief executive Katrena Stephenson expressed this view during a hearing before the Public Accounts Committee on the state government’s financial response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“While councils will be carrying deficits for a few years, apart from a couple of councils that have additional issues, we feel that they are manageable and don’t make councils overly vulnerable,” she said.
“There is a constrained environment going forward and their flexibility has been impacted in terms of the sorts of things they will be able to do over the next few years.”
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Dr Stephenson said about 20 councils had taken loans from the government’s $200 million No Interest Loans Program.
She said these loans particularly helped councils that had experienced short-term cashflow problems.
Dr Stephenson said councils would struggle to provide the same level of relief to residents and businesses, particularly in terms of rate deferrals or rate waivers, should a second coronavirus outbreak occur.
She said job losses in the local government sector were minimal, and due to their need to provide broad community support, many staff members were able to be redeployed.
Dr Stephenson said remote working had shown some councils that there was a chance to look at permanent flexible working arrangements.
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