City called upon to freeze rates

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on March 26, 2020

AS BUSINESSES throughout the Great Southern shut their doors – forced by new Federal rulings to protect people from the spread of COVID-19 – the City of Albany has been called upon to play its part in aiding businesses to keep afloat.

Owner and manager of several commercial buildings in the Albany CBD, Rino Daniele said of his more than 20 tenants, five had already approached him requesting rent relief.

He said it broke his heart to see the declining business climate of Albany and that he would do what he could to help, providing whatever rent deduction he could afford.

But his hands were tied.

“This catastrophe is affecting so many people at so many levels both financially and emotionally,” Mr Daniele said.

“But I will stay positive and I will help my tenants within the limits of my capabilities, which is extremely dependent on the position taken by my bank and the other authorities that charge an impost on the ownership of property, such as the State Government and the City of Albany.”

At Tuesday’s City of Albany Council meeting, Council granted CEO Andrew Sharpe delegation to defer, discount and/or suspend fees, charges and licensing or leasing fees on a case-by-case basis.

“These delegations are already in place for rates and our staff will work with anyone experiencing hardship to make arrangements around their rates, and we’ll consider how next financial year looks as we go through the process and announce this in due course,” Mayor Dennis Wellington said.

“We’re doing work now to look at budgeting scenarios that will focus on efficiencies and cost reductions wherever possible.”

Mr Daniele called for the City to provide a freeze on the next round of rate payments.

“As City rates are a huge impost levied against land holdings, this cost is passed onto tenants, which is normal commercial practice,” he said.

“[A freeze] will then remove a huge cost from the tenant and thereby assist them with keeping their business afloat.

“The Federal and State governments have both been proactive in announcing stimulus package to assist businesses to stay afloat and local authorities are simply another form of government – they need to play their part immediately in helping businesses and therefore the economy to survive this disaster that has beset our lives.”