When that time comes, we’ll need to be ready to fire up our economy so that people can get back to work, and we’ll also need to recharge our community life so that people can once again get out and about to enjoy the great offerings that our city provides.
To that end, we have or are putting into place a range of measures to help our impacted residents and business community through the initial impacts while also planning how to stimulate our economy when restrictions begin to ease.
At our Councillor Briefing Session (conducted online) last Monday evening, Councillors and our leadership team discussed some of the options that might be taken during our current budgetary process, as well as those steps we’ve already taken to ease the load on our businesses and our residents.
We examined various possibilities for rates and charges relief, while factoring in the effects of such a move on our ability to continue to maintain a high level of community service, as well as ways of creating economic stimulus when businesses are able to return to full operation.
Like all organisations in the current climate, we as a Council must tread a fine line between our need to help our community and the financial realities that dictate the wider effects of the revenue squeeze that’s affecting us all.
It won’t be an easy path. Monday’s briefing heard, for example, that we’re planning for a revenue shortfall of at least $2.5M in the current financial year, with that number potentially rising to $3.3M when increasing losses from our airport operations are factored in. These are obviously significant sums but due to prudent planning and careful spending, Council entered this emergency in a strong financial position, leaving us well-placed to get through the crisis.
Our Councillors and leadership team will examine all of these factors as we work towards striking that balance between providing support and continuing to maintain high-level services, while also remaining mindful of how we as a long-lived organisation together with our community can meet the challenges of the recovery process ahead.
We can be certain, however, that our people at Council stand ready to rise to those challenges. Among our strategies already in place is a plan to keep our workforce engaged, active and productive so that we’re ready to drive our economic recovery, now and also when the situation begins to ease in the future.
As part of that aim, we’ve implemented a work-from-home program for many of our people while those delivering essential services in the field remain on the job, with the appropriate social distancing measures in place.
In the shorter term, we’ve already taken important steps towards supporting our economy through the early stages of the crisis. These include, among other things, liaison and advice to our residents and the business community who are experiencing financial hardship, the bringing forward of plans and designs for shovel-ready projects that will add to our economic activity, a sensible relaxation of compliance regulations to make it easier for those still working to continue to do so, and close co-operation and advocacy with our local State and Federal MPs so that we can work with them for the best possible outcomes for our community.
And, of course, we continue to provide essential services such as waste collection, water and waste water, our works program and major projects while we’re also embracing new and agile ways of providing social services such as on-line lending from our libraries.
It’s also critical that we continue to maintain open, efficient and transparent governance and it’s pleasing to see that our efforts in this area are working. The success of Monday’s Councillor Briefing Session in an online forum, rather than the traditional meeting format, shows that technology can be harnessed to maintain the governance of our city at a time when strong leadership and prompt decision-making is most needed.
The road ahead will not be an easy one and we all face tough decisions - both within organisations such as Council and within homes and businesses across the city – but by taking the journey together we will remain agile and productive, and most importantly, ready to take the actions needed to power our recovery and return our community to its thriving, successful new ‘normal’ in a post-COVID-19 world.
While that light at the end of the uncertain times may seem distant, we can be sure that it will return and we look forward to working with you, our community, to emerge into the new era stronger, more resilient and successful than ever.