HORSHAM Rural City Council has added its voice to calls to allow meetings to be conducted online, and has welcomed being given two more months to finalise their next budgets and annual reports.
On Thursday April 9, Victoria's Local Government Minister Adem Somyurak announced an extended deadline for 2020/21 Council budgets until 31 August and for annual reports to 30 November.
In a statement, Mr Somyurek said councils are usually required to adopt their budgets by 30 June and to submit an annual report by 30 September each year.
Councils continue to be required to give public notice and hear public submissions before adopting budgets or submitting an annual report.
The extensions are open to all councils and Regional Library Corporations should they wish to use them.
Horsham chief executive Sunil Bhalla said the municipality's draft budget was almost ready when the pandemic impacts necessitated a review.
"One review is about the impacts of the closure of facilities such as the Town Hall and Art Gallery and Aquatics Centre. The other side is how we assist local businesses and the communtiy generally to get through this difficult period," he said.
"We have put in a financial hardship co-ordinator to make sure it is easier for peopel to navigate the system. It's good to have this extra time."
Mayor Mark Radford has written to Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek to add the councils voice to those which have requested urgent changes to a Local Government Act (2020) stipulation that prevents Council meetings from being held online.
Should the rules change, HRCC is prepared to hold its next Ordinary Meeting, sheduled for April 27, via online video conferencing.
The state government is set to consider such a change during an emergency sitting of parliament next Thursday, April 23.
Mr Bhalla said video conferencing was allowing councillors and staff to keep functioning.
Council seeks to hire retrenched workers, continue City to River
Mr Bhalla said the council was conscious of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on employment in Horsham Rural City.
"There is a $500 million working for Victoria fund we are participating in. We made a submission to take on additional staff to help in certain services," he said.
"Whether they are involved in waste management, environmental mangement or other projects we have to do with regional infrastructure, it's about trying to redeply people whose jobs have been affected."
He also said the council was continuing work on the City to River masterplan. The 20-year vision for Horsham is designed to guide council in seeking state and federal funding for projects in the city. The amended plan suggests changes to Horsham CBD including:
- Enlarging and rotating City Oval, and adding netball courts
- A riverfront cafe
- A tourism/hospitality site at the Maydale showgrounds
- New civic and government buildings on the city block occupied by Horsham courthouse, police and the civic centre.
The council has commenced planning works for stage one, which it has funded in its current budget.
"We also have money for the City Oval and Sawyer Park planning work," he said.
"We have appointed the communtiy reference group and the team has been in contact with the members to see how we can continue the planning work.
"It's easy for people to say 'don't do this', but there is a whole supply chain which sits behind this - contractors, consultatnts and their staff and people. I'm very conscious of keeping as many services and projects going, because otherwise what do people do?"