CQ mayors share thoughts on the LGAQ jobs battle plan

TWO Central Queensland mayors are in support of the Local Government Association of Queensland $608m battle plan to kick start local economies and create more than 14,000 jobs but are cautious.

The proposal is a bid to fight the economic crisis COVID-19 has caused.

The Palaszczuk Government has been asked to fund the multi-million and multi-pronged plan councils from across the state have developed to create jobs, provide economic stimulus in their cities and towns and help them provide some relief to ratepayers.

It includes a $200 million new capital works plan, funding for a 3000-strong “green army” to protect and improve the environment for the tourism and agricultural industries, and training for 800 displaced workers through local government apprenticeships and traineeships.

Rockhampton Region Mayor Margaret Strelow (pictured left) says the proposal is a good beginning but “doesn’t go anywhere near far enough”.

She noted how the LGAQ proposal doesn’t help council ease the rates burned for those in the Rockhampton region’s community who have had to shut their doors or to give rates assistance to the newly unemployed.

Cr Strelow said council is bearing the impacts of COVID-19 in the budget and at this stage, RRC already has close to a $10m deficit in the 19/20 financial year.

And it won’t be any better next year.

“We have seen significant decreases in income from the airport, development activity and from council owned commercial premises,” she said.

“Given the pain that we’ve been through to sort out our budget since deamalgamation and the hard work we’ve already done in paying off debt- it’s going to be tough to have to turn around and give up what we’ve already gained to get us through this crisis.”

Andy Ireland has been declared the new Livingstone Shire Council Mayor
Andy Ireland has been declared the new Livingstone Shire Council Mayor

Newly elected Livingstone Shire Council Mayor Andy Ireland (pictured right) said LSC supports the battle plan however they haven’t been sitting idle waiting for government funding.

“We have been working with local business to provide mentoring around assistance packages and the process for making application, providing advice and access to digital marketing consultants to assist businesses to get their websites and Facebook operating with maximum impact, and generally having dialogue with them,” he said.

Cr Ireland commented LSC has been working with the Local Disaster Management Group to continually monitor development, keep the community informed and to plan for different scenarios such as food distribution to rural and remote areas of the shire and senior citizens, should the need arise.

“We will also continue to roll out our capital works program to continue to employ our own staff, local contractors, and ensure we buy as many materials as possible locally,” Cr Ireland said.

“By spending money in our community, council keeps people in jobs and keeps business ticking over.”

If the funding was successful, Cr Ireland said the money could be spent in two possible ways, firstly to help everyone to survive during the Pandemic, but then to assist with the recovery.

“Council will be discussing additional options at a briefing session early this week,” he said.

“Once council has determined what the additional assistance will look like, the community will be the first to know.”

Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker, who sits on the LGAQ policy executive, said the plan would help the communities remain “safe and strong” even as council budget bottom lines were hit.

Cr Baker said council workers were on the frontline of the government’s response to the pandemic and it was time they received support from the State Government.

“Local government does a large amount of the heavy lifting,” she said.

Now more than ever, Cr Baker said residents needed to be confident in councils’ ability to provide public health services, including disaster management groups and waste and water services.

Cr Baker said LGAQ was forced to turn to the State Government after being cut out of Federal Government stimulus packages, including the JobKeeper program.

Local Government Association of Queensland president Mark Jamieson said the package would create more than 14,000 jobs across the state and ensure regions could rebound from the crisis.

If accepted, Cr Jamieson said the stimulus measures could start rolling out within months.

Cr Jamieson said the LGAQ, which represents all 77 Queensland councils, would continue to lobby the Federal Government for local governments to be included in the JobKeeper program and a $2 billion boost to Financial Assistance Grants.

“We must look ahead to the next phase in this crisis, but we cannot do it alone,” he said.

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