Measures supporting hard-hit business and arts communities are among a raft of COVID-19 recovery initiatives in Port Phillip Council’s 2020/21 Budget and Council Plan.
Mayor Bernadene Voss said the Budget, adopted last night, reflects the massive impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Council – and the Port Phillip community.
“We have done our best to get the balance right between ensuring we continue to be in a position to deliver the key services and priorities our community expects while building in support for those hardest hit by COVID-19,” Cr Voss said.
“COVID-19 will cut our Council’s revenue by an estimated $31 million across 2019/20 and 2020/21. After delaying or reducing some services and projects we have managed to achieve a Budget that targets significant assistance to those who need it most while not taking on extra debt.”
Efficiency savings of $5.6 million, adding to $13 million already delivered over the previous six budgets, have also played a significant role in balancing the Budget.
Cr Voss said significant hardship felt by many in the community has been recognised by the targeted plan at the heart of the Budget.
“Our Budget’s Economic and Social Recovery Program, originally set at $4.2 million, is now $5.6 million as we understand that continuing restrictions are impacting many traders and community members,” she said.
A rates cap increase of two per cent, ($2.7 million or an average of $35 per average ratepayer) is helping fund the Program for ratepayers, businesses and community members most affected by the pandemic.
The program includes relief from rates, rents and Council fees and charges; red tape reduction; statutory planning support; reactivation of public space and scope to respond to affordable housing and homelessness needs. It builds on the $2.8 million emergency relief package provided last financial year.
The 2020/21 Budget also includes:
Suspension of the 2021 St Kilda Festival due to COVID-19 concerns, with the $1.7 million in savings
to be kept separate from the Economic and Social Recovery Program and used to fund economic and cultural activities currently being determined
Plans for a Business Advisory Group to further support traders
Matching Fitzroy Street Trading Association’s funding for the Reactivate Fitzroy Street project to fill vacant shops ($75,000) in the post-pandemic recovery and seeking Victorian Government funding for the second year.
The 20/21 Budget also recognises the pandemic has influenced how we travel with extra bike riding initiatives including:
Installing a temporary protected bike lane on Park Street, between, Moray Street and Kings Way, to extend to St Kilda Road ($150,000)
Contributing to the development of temporary central safety improvements for riders along St Kilda Road, from St Kilda Junction, to the CBD, subject to the Victorian Government funding the balance ($280,000)
Contributing to developing temporary safety improvements for bike riders along Jacka Boulevard and Beaconsfield Parade, subject to the Victorian Government funding the balance ($250,000)
Approximately $150,000 to develop shimmy bike routes (informal bike riding routes connecting to local shopping strips). This involves selecting quiet street bike riding connections, marked with bike symbols, signage and safety treatments at key locations. The symbols and signage provide ‘breadcrumb trails’ for people to follow across the City
About $100,000 to improve accessibility issues at the St Kilda Junction.
Other key features include:
Project investment of $54 million to maintain, grow and improve services and infrastructure including
$33.2 million of capital investment in community assets including roads, footpaths, drains and stormwater pipes, parks and foreshore, sport fields and facilities and community facilities.
About $6.9 million to support projects including the EcoCentre redevelopment, energy efficiency street lighting and buildings, waste strategy implementation (including a food and garden organics collection trial), implementation of the public toilet plan and continued investment in stormwater management and support for the Elster Creek Catchment Partnership
About $1.7 million allocated towards projects supporting the improved condition, safety and accessibility of childcare and community facilities as well as the implementation of the In our Backyard affordable housing strategy. This is in addition to existing services for children, aged care and housing and homelessness.
Reinstating the afternoon litter bin service over summer ($32,000) in response to community feedback.
A general increase in fees and charges of 2.25 per cent, unless it makes sense to vary, and to provide targeted financial support to those need it most.
Cr Voss thanked community members who participated in the extensive consultation phase, which included an online survey and seven neighbourhood-based focus groups. The draft Budget attracted 298 submissions and 27 people spoke to their submissions at the 5 August Council Meeting.
“We have done our best to factor in the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. Our community is always at the forefront of what we do and we will continue to look at whether there is further scope to provide targeted assistance to those who need it most and to support the recovery phase.