Council agrees to additional COVID-19 relief measures
Published on 09 April 2020
At a workshop today elected members of Upper Hutt City Council discussed multiple measures aimed at bringing relief to residents and businesses in light of the COVID-19 lockdown and its financial impacts.
A total of 12 measures have been agreed to by the Mayor and councillors. Some of them will need further work by staff to nail down, and will be brought back for consideration at the next Council meeting on 4 May. For these Council has provided direction in principle.
Rates increases and the Annual Plan 2020 – 2021
Council’s rates requirement was set to increase by 4.68% as indicated in its Long Term Plan. At today’s meeting, Council discussed 3 options: continue with the 4.68% increase; reduce the rates increase to no more than 1.5% (in line with inflation which was 1.9% last quarter); or have a 0% increase. Discussions yielded a clear direction that Council would aim to reduce the increase to 1.5%, which would effectively keep it below inflation.
The measures do have some financial impact for Council. Officers will now prepare further detail of how this option will work and will present it to Council for adoption at its next meeting on 4 May. At this point in time, no service level reductions are expected. The timeframe will allow officers to explore the more far-reaching impacts, have a detailed look at reducing expenditure, and apply a formal decision making approach.
Measures that will have immediate effect are as follows.
- Refund licence fees: Council charges licence fees to hairdressers and food outlets. Most of these businesses have had to close during Alert Levels 3 and 4. Fees will be refunded to them for 2 months.
- Rent relief: Council will excuse tenants of commercial properties it owns from paying rent while they are unable to open.
- Defer amenity loan repayments: We’re allowing a repayment ‘holiday’ for amenity loan holders until they are able to generate revenue again.
- Pay suppliers faster: Standard practice in the industry is for payments to be made on the 20th of the month following an invoice but we can help businesses—especially local and smaller ones—by paying weekly.
- Upper Hutt Libraries: We’ve decided to remove fees on overdue items at the library and extend current loans until we’re back to Alert Level 2.
- Business and welfare support: We’re going to strengthen support to businesses and the community through advice, information, networking, and opportunities. We’ve already joined up our initial response for the Hutt Valley, collaborating with Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce and Hutt City Council.
- Penalty remission: For those facing financial hardship or difficulty in paying your rates, please contact us. We can help. We will remit penalties if you enter into a payment arrangement with us.
The following measures have been agreed to in principle but require Council, as a Local Authority, to go through a formal process to adopt them. They’ll be tabled for adoption at the next meeting on 4 May.
- Postponement of the April 2020 rates installment: If customers can demonstrate that they are in financial hardship, they could qualify to have the current rates installment postponed. For residential ratepayers, this would be until October 2020 (6 months). For businesses this would be until April 2021 (12 months).
- Nil increase to fees and charges: We’d drafted our fees and charges for 2020 – 2021 which is currently out for consultation. Council has provided a clear indication that we are now going to freeze fees and charges for the 2020 – 2021 year. The draft document will be amended to reflect no changes from 2019 – 2020 and then be tabled for adoption by Council on 4 May.
- Defer development contributions: We’re looking at offering developers the opportunity to defer Development Contributions. This option requires further work by officers and consideration by Council.
- Economic recovery package: Establish some means to support and boost economic recovery. This option requires further work by officers and consideration by Council.
“This workshop is a clear signal of intent by Council, which is to ease the burden of those businesses and ratepayers in hardship,” says Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy. “We have to accept that in a matter of days, our economic environment has completely changed. Council is here to benefit the community and help it to thrive. We must do our part to reduce the financial burden that some of our households and businesses are now facing.”
The measures come in addition to other help and services Council is offering the community and businesses as part of its COVID-19 response.