Blue Mountains Council looks to waive rents for businesses

Blue Mountains City Council will look to waive rents for all tenants in council buildings under commercial agreements, given the current COVID-19 crisis.

The proposal, which has no end date but will be reviewed monthly, will be one of several initiatives that will go to the council meeting on March 31 for endorsement.

Council will also look to provide new payment arrangements for ratepayers and businesses who are experiencing hardship because of COVID-19. Interest penalties will also be put on hold during the period of any arrangements.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill and Blue Mountains Council CEO Rosemary Dillon.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill and Blue Mountains Council CEO Rosemary Dillon.

It will also ask the Valuer-General to put on-hold the redistribution of rates associated with the most recent three-year land revaluation, currently scheduled to impact Blue Mountains ratepayers from July 1 this year.

BMCC chief executive officer Dr Rosemary Dillon said the impact of the COVID-19 on the community and the local economy, on top of bushfire impacts, had already been absolutely devastating.

"Many residents have lost their jobs or have had their incomes significantly reduced. Many local businesses have had to close down or have had their incomes severely reduced," she said.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill said he supported all the initiatives proposed by the CEO.

"The council remains committed to supporting the community through COVID-19 and working with other levels of government and key agencies to address the significant impacts on the City of Blue Mountains," he said.

Anna Spoore of Uplift Fair Trade with Ward 1 Cr Kerry Brown in Katoomba.

Anna Spoore of Uplift Fair Trade with Ward 1 Cr Kerry Brown in Katoomba.

The announcements came as Ward 1 Councillor Kerry Brown called on the council to waive all commercial rents on its properties for six months and consider whether this should be extended to non-commercial tenants.

"It won't break the council to waive our rental income but it will break our local businesses to pay it," she said.

"They will have to close up and leave anyway and no one will replace them so we might as well let them stay for free."

Cr Brown wants council's 100 per cent rent waiver to be from March 1 and to be unconditional. She said she planned to bring an urgency motion on the issue to the March 31 council meeting.

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The proposals by council's CEO will also include investigating the possible introduction of a pensioner rebate on domestic waste charges as well as other business support initiatives.

Councillors will also consider allowing library books to be kept by borrowers for the duration of the crisis. Late fees would not apply

They will also consider developing and implementing further online resources for the library and leisure centre services and a range of other online initiatives.

"The council provides a range of essential services critical to the city and is committed to the continued safe delivery of these services. The council is also currently implementing its crisis management and business continuity plans, with a tailored risk and safety based approach for each service area," said Dr Dillon.

"It must also be noted that the 2019-2020 rates have already been levied and rating legislation and regulations do not allow for council to abandon rates and charges that have been levied."