Call out to council to show ‘compassion’ for businesses in the shire

Augusta Margaret River Times
Neville Veitch.
Camera IconNeville Veitch. Credit: Becky Felstead

Former councillor Neville Veitch has fronted his former colleagues to call for more compassion for commercial ratepayers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The owner of several properties and commercial interests within the region, Mr Veitch urged councillors to consider a $1.5 million allocation from its $20 million cash reserves to help commercial landlords with a 33 per cent rates cut for 2020-21.

The Shire made $2 million of this money available for its community care fund, of which less than $500,000 has been used so far.

Mr Veitch said waived rents for Shire commercial tenants such as the White Elephant Cafe and the Hairy Marron meant relief should be considered for other ratepayers.

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“Most businesses are doing it equally tough, if not tougher in most instances,” he said.

“These businesses — mostly locally-owned and often family-operated pay council rates, council fees/charges, State Government charges.”

Although a council briefing session recently heard a 10 per cent rates cut for commercial properties failed to meet the Shire’s equity policy, waiving rents for its own tenants and doing nothing for the wider community was unfair too.

“This is a great opportunity for the local councillors to show leadership and compassion to all the businesses in the Shire,” Mr Veitch said.

Cr Pauline McLeod said one challenge was how councillors could know rates cuts would filter through to tenants.

Mr Veitch said businesses should not have to open their books to Shire employees, who had guaranteed employment during the crisis, to qualify for hardship funds.

Shire president Ian Earl said money would be set aside for the hardship fund.

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