Council rates and charges on small business to be clamped by new law

The Victorian Liberal Nationals are backing businesses, including small business, to recover and rebuild by blocking unfair new or increased charges levied upon them.

The Liberal Nationals have introduced a Bill to State Parliament to block any new fee or increases to existing charges by local councils on small businesses for a period of four years.

Small businesses are the largest employer in Victoria. Small businesses and their staff have felt the full brunt of Daniel Andrews’ COVID lockdowns and have borne more than their fair share of the terrible negative impact of the COVID restrictions. They should be provided this support to enable them to again get on their feet.

It should not be believed that local government is the sole source of unfair increased taxes fees and charges on business, especially small business. In fact, the current state budget increases taxes and charges on businesses including small business heavily and without regard to business viability and employment.

Melbourne businesses and small businesses in particular have endured and are enduring the longest disruptions to their economic activity and indeed their livelihoods of any businesses in the world. Sadly, many small businesses have not survived these lockdowns and many more will not survive.

The Bill will freeze all existing small business municipal businesses levies and block the introduction of additional fees for a period of four years, including charges for footpath and road occupation, fees on hairdressers and beauty businesses, fees on food businesses and fees on accommodation providers.

Comments attributable to Shadow Treasurer, David Davis:

“The Bill prohibits councils increasing their fees or charges on businesses or imposing new or increased rates on businesses unless the minister first approves such changes. It will be the responsibility of the minister to weigh up the needs of councils requesting increased or new fees or charges or new or increased rates on businesses against the needs of the affected businesses in a defined COVID recovery period with a specific sunset to these provisions.

“In this way, the minister is empowered to be a brake on the excesses of municipalities and give those Victorian small businesses that survive the government’s long and harsh COVID lockdowns a break from unfair additional municipal financial imposts on their operations for a defined post COVID recovery period.”

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Small Business, David Southwick:

“Many small businesses have been fighting to keep their doors open and the last thing they need is to be slugged with more government fees and charges when they are trying to get back on their feet.

“To avoid unfair and unreasonable new local government charges being levied on Victorian small businesses, this Bill seeks to amend the Local Government Act to ensure municipal business levies are not increased and no new fees are imposed on business, especially small business, without the express permission of the Minister for Local Government.”

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Local Government, Richard Riordan:

“It is incumbent on all levels of government to do everything possible to remove impediments to small business economic recovery post COVID and to avoid imposing additional impediments.

“Sadly, not all Victorian municipalities share this imperative having, in one notable example at the City of Yarra, announced new charges for street trading.”