45,000 council jobs in the balance as local govt sidelined

Councils say they have been left in the cold as the federal government announces a raft of coronavirus stimulus and support measures designed to keep the economy afloat.

David O’Loughlin

The national local government peak ALGA says up to 45,000 jobs could be lost as a result.

President David O’Loughlin says councils have been hit hard by rate relief, facility closures and loss of parking revenue, as well as a lack of assistance from the federal government’s recently announced JobKeeper and Child Care packages.

“If councils are not included under the schemes, the entitlements available to local government employees who work in facilities that have been forced to close will be less than those who work in comparable workplaces in the private and not for profit sector,” he said.

“Our estimates indicate up to 45,000 workers will be lost.”

Government News has learned that one Sydney Council has already identified $5 million worth cuts by the end of the financial year and has asked staff to reduce weekly working hours to remain financially viable.

In an update to staff last Friday obtained by Government News, Hornsby Shire’s General Manager Steven Head warns the impact of the cuts “will be directly felt by the community in the way of deferred or cancelled projects or initiatives that we will no longer deliver”.

Mr Head says that projects proposed for the following year will have to be significantly cut or refocused, and staff  where services are closing or being restricted will be affected.

“Our branch managers and directors are currently discussing with every team and individual an approach that will help reduce our direct staff costs, protect our overall finances and hence improve our ability to keep our permanent staff employed during and after the pandemic has subsided,” the email says.

Further comment has been sought.

Concern about childcare

Local Government NSW says many essential services, including childcare, are under threat in the state because councils aren’t eligible for the JobKeeper allowance, which provides employers with $1,500 a fortnight per employee.

Linda Scott

LGNSW president Linda Scott says council-run childcare centres could be forced to close as a result of their exclusion from JobKeeper payments and a flaw in the government’s $1.6 billion free childcare package announced on Thursday.

Cr Scott says the child care initiative, designed to be complemented by the JobKeeper payment, leaves councils out of pocket because it will replace the Child Care Subsidy, which makes up to 50 per cent of their childcare revenue.

She says one Sydney council has estimated it will lose $3 million over the next three months under the new arrangement and will struggle to keep its doors open.

“The Prime Minister must reverse a decision to deny JobKeeper payments to councils,” she told Government News.

“Without it, we are looking at the closure of council-run childcare centres across NSW, where local government is not only the largest provider of childcare and early education services but in some regional areas the only provider.

“It is absolutely critical that councils have access to the JobKeeper assistance package, not just to help them keep their childcare centres open but to keep council staff employed right across NSW.”

Commonwealth ‘to provide more inf0rmation’

The United Services Union also says local government has been left out of many of the government’s stimulus measures.

“There is no point announcing a $1.6 billion childcare package that promises essential workers that childcare services will be free if a major flaw in the funding model means centres in communities across the country will still be forced to close their doors,” General Secretary Graeme Kelly said.

NSW local government minister Shelley Hancock said she was “acutely aware” of the impact of the childcare decision on local councils.

“I have heard from many of you already about the difficulty you are having keeping staff employed as well as providing services, such as childcare,” she said in an email to councils.

“The Commonwealth has advised me that they have heard our concerns about childcare services in particular and will provide more information soon.”

Concerns raised by Queensland councils

Greg Hallam

Queensland councils also say they are working  with Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk to protect their 40,000 workers who have missed out on the JobKeeper program.

LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam says COVID-19 could cost the state’s councils, which are already introducing measures like rate relief and fee waivers, hundreds of millions of dollars.

Among council staff affected are around 1,700 librarians who are seeking redeployment or support, he says.

“Without access to JobKeeper funding, the task of supporting communities while also sustaining jobs becomes much more difficult,” he said.

“Councils need their support to not only sustain jobs but to ensure further jobs can be created when the time comes to inject further stimulus into local economies to help Queensland recover from the pandemic.”

Cr O’Loughlin says he has written to the PM asking for action.

“ALGA is pursuing this matter with urgency,” he said.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

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14 thoughts on “45,000 council jobs in the balance as local govt sidelined

  1. My husband is a fitness instructor and his main employer is a council. He was paid until the 5th of April (so two weeks after the aquatic/fitness centres had to close) and after that, he has been stood down. Does this mean he doesn’t have the same rights as everybody else? Where are the principles of equality in government?

    1. Unfortunately Carolina, if the aquatic/fitness centre is closed, the council doesn’t have much option other than standing workers down (unless they can be utilised by other teams on a temporary basis – like the council parking rangers who are doing deliveries on behalf of meals on wheels)

  2. I too was employed by Council in visitors services and have been stood down.
    Now I learn that I too cannot get the JobKeeper allowance, because my employer is not a “business” losing its turnover in the required way! So I am forced to the Job Seeker payment which leaves me about $200 to live on after I pay rent – not to mention the other outgoings. Council workers as much as anyone else should have their jobs protected for when we can return.

  3. Given that the council offices are closed and libraries are closed as well as other public facilities could we have a rate cut? The closure of libraries or the inability to borrow books have been very frustrating for my kids

    1. Yes the closure of facilities can be frustrating but rates are a tax and not a fee for service.
      For example a ratepayer who chooses not to use a swimming pool can’t say he wants to pay less in rates because he doesn’t/can’t use that service and therefore shouldn’t have to pay for it.

    1. In Australia, despite local government being one of the first forms of government in our history, it has never been constitutionally recognised as a part of our federation. The “third tier” of government is therefore established by Acts of respective State parliaments. As such local government collect less than 3% of total tax revenue (as rates), despite being one of the biggest government employers and managing over 30% of our public infrastructure. Hence, when things like this happens local government has no choice but to appeal to the higher tiers of government.

  4. Is this due to any rule that stipulates the Federal government is unable to provide funding directly to councils? Ie. The states need to step in and provide the funding to councils?

    1. Yes, it can be constitutionally challenged. See my comment above. Its a very inefficient system, especially in times of crisis.

  5. The only logical reason for all the local councils in all of Australia including fabulous Tasmania not able to access $130Billion Jobkeeper allowance is that they are the largest employer in this land.
    A 20 year old living at home working part time for 13 months can receive $1500 per fortnight. They probably were earning perhaps $300 per fortnight.
    A 20 year serving council worker stood down has to attempt to go on line or more than likely go to a bricks and mortar Centrelink office , stand outside and wait for hours to register for $1100 per fortnight.
    Is this fair and the Australian way!!!!!!!

  6. I was employed at a council run Aquatic Centre which has been closed down, I have friends who work at an Aquatic Centre that is not run by council they get jobkeeper I don’t how is this fair?

  7. I would be interested to know what sort of pay cuts the senior echelons of Local Government are taking. Does any one know? When the CEO of a council is remunerated more than the Vice Chancellor of Germany something is very amiss. Sadly that is the case in many councils in Australia!

  8. How much does this relate to the fact that Local Government is not recognised in the constitution as the third level of Government in Australia and is only there under license from each State Government. Having said that the bill would be enormous as from memory there is around 200000 local government employees in Australia. Again having said that some form of support should be given with possibly the 3 levels of Government tipping in

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