Fire and emergency services levy canned

Planned changes to the Fire and Emergency Services Levy have been canned by the NSW Government, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Tuesday.

The public had been told that as of July 1 their council rates would go up, but that isn’t happening any more.

The idea was to change where fire and emergency services in NSW get their funding. Currently, the charge comes from an added premium on insurance, which means that only those property owners who take the step of purchasing insurance are paying for those services, which are used by the whole state. The plan was to take the charge off insurance premiums and add it to council rates, which are mandatory for all property owners.

However, now that’s not changing, and the funding will still come from insurance premiums.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government’s modelling was wrong, and what they initially thought was a policy decision that would make life fairer for property owners turned out not to be the case.

“It’s become apparent to us that when we’ve looked at the advice on the modelling for industrial and commercial but [then] looked at the examples that were coming in, there is a mismatch,” she said.

Premier Berejiklian said there was nothing wrong with backflipping on policy when it would result in fairer outcomes for NSW.

“What is the point of doing something if it doesn’t make the system fairer?” she said.

The reversal comes after a significant backlash from ratepayers, many of whom would be paying a sharp increase after the changes came into effect.

The Premier said she was reacting to the concerns of small to medium sized businesses, who it turned out would be paying more overall under the new policy even though they would be paying less on their insurance. She said the added rates could be reintroduced with some more tinkering, “after we feel the system is fairer,” but for the time being the legislation will be scrapped.

So for now at least, insurance premiums won’t go down, and council rates won’t go up, in relation to funding fire and emergency services.