The recent rumours of a closure of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) Regional Office at Young have certainly sparked broad community concerns at the potential loss of another State Government instrumentality/office from rural NSW. As previously indicated, for many businesses there could be a direct economic impact as over $1.2 million in wages and salaries may disappear from localized spending, but for communities it means much more as direct human impacts can often be felt in social groups, sporting bodies, school groups and indirectly in many other areas of social, business and cultural life.
It seems to many that the re-distribution of RFS boundaries and re-allocation of staff to new regional zones is an example of unneeded change and will not improve or increase the ability of volunteers to fight fires, improve the safety of volunteers or increase the effectiveness of the many rural brigades located in the region.
As such, in the event that the rumours are confirmed as fact, it begs the question of what could change so much in the RFS that the Young office is no longer required or at least would render it ineffective to the point that it needed to be closed? It would be nice for the State Government or the RFS to clear up this matter once and for all by either confirming the retention of the Young Regional Office and staffing levels, or providing the details of any plan to close the office and informing the community as to the basis of such actions.
The State Government has provided some background to justification of the dramatic increase in the NSW Emergency Service Levy with a big push to provide better conditions for firefighters who are diagnosed with work-related cancers. New laws passed in 2018 make it easier for firefighters to make a workers compensation claim if they are diagnosed with one of twelve work-related cancers and have been employed in the organisation between five and twenty-five years. The State expects that significantly more firefighters diagnosed with work-related cancers will now be eligible for workers compensation benefits including loss of income payments, medical treatment expenses and death benefits for those with terminal conditions.
The Emergency Services Levy is a charge applied to local councils, household insurance policies and business insurance policies with the proceeds going to fund the work of Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the State Emergency Service (SES).
With the draft report into the IPART’s review of the Local Government Rating System being completed in August 2016 and provided to the Minister in December 2016, almost three years have passed for the final report to be released for consultation. The report contains recommendations that would make for some major changes to the valuation basis used by councils to levy rates and the way in which the community funds the Emergency Services Levy.
Have a great weekend.
Councillor Greg Armstrong
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