It is great to see things starting to change in our community with restrictions being lifted and more businesses opening. It has been a difficult period for our community and for me to see the impact it has had on individuals and companies. Through this last three months, it has been heartening to be part of Council and see the benefits of having a strong, well-planned and financially robust organisation focused on the local community.
Our position has allowed us to modify some of our services to suit the situation while also enabling the redirection of some funds to more immediate issues, such as a foodbank program for those most impacted by the pandemic, in partnership with local businesses.
Council has also been assessing a number of requests for financial consideration due to the impact of Covid-19 and at last night’s Council meeting we were able to formalise our approach, passing a Covid-19 specific Financial Hardship Policy which, in particular, makes specific provision for individuals and organisations who are not eligible for support from other levels of government. Each case is different, and Council will work with each application individually.
Our ability to make such provisions is in large part due to our robust business planning and budgeting processes. Last night’s meeting also saw Council approve our Annual Business Plan and Budget for 2020/21. Once again council is planning for a small operating surplus while enabling us to continue to invest in renewal of our assets and continued delivery of development projects in our community. In 2020/21 these will include further extensive works at Sturt Reserve, completion of the Lerwin Aged Care Facility Expansion and continuation of our footpath expansion program.
One of our commitments over the next five years is to focus more strongly on our outer communities and this was demonstrated last night with ratification of the Callington Township Plan following public consultation. The Plan provides for improved pedestrian movement throughout the town, enhancing existing open space and recreation areas/facilities and improving the Bremer River watercourse.
Significantly for a town that straddles two local government jurisdictions, the Plan commits to exploring the potential for the town to be governed by a single Council.
The progression of our road networks and in particular development of our road freight network was also discussed last night. Council has agreed to enter into negotiations for acquisition of some small land parcels to maximize the safety of several of our road developments in the City.
I am pleased with the services that we have been able to continue to deliver during this difficult time and am enthused at the prospect of seeing the restrictions lifted and of Council implementing another year of projects aimed at developing our great community.