Fees freeze for Canberra households and businesses

Michael Weaver 15 June 2020
Canberra cafe

It is hoped a freeze on the government charges will flow through to Canberra businesses for a post-COVID-19 recovery. Photo: File.

The cost of fees and charges on a range of government services such as vehicle registration and development application fees will not increase during the next financial year.

The ACT Government announced the freeze on fees and charges in response to the pressures being faced by the community during the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several fees and charges were already frozen at 2019-20 levels or waived as part of the government’s economic survival package announced in March 2020. These fees will remain fixed at the 2019-20 level for 2020-21.

The government charges that will remain at current 2019-20 levels include birth, death and marriage registrations fees, building fees, domestic animal fees, emergencies fees, land title fees, planning and development fees, public health fees, security industry fees and vehicle registration fees.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said many families and businesses have experienced financial stress from job losses and a reduction in personal or business income.

“We know that every little bit counts and this is one of the many ways the Government can help address the cost of doing business, and the cost of living, during this pandemic,” Mr Barr said.

The fees freeze follows a number of financial support measures provided by the ACT Government during the pandemic, including rebates on rates, incentives for commercial and residential rental relief and payroll tax concessions.

Electricity bills are also expected to drop following a determination last week by the ACT Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission’s (ICRC) on regulated electricity prices in the ACT.

A typical Canberra household will save $43 on its bill in 2020-21, according to the ICRC which released its final decision on regulated retail electricity prices for the next four years from 1 July 2020. Businesses will see similar reductions on their bills.

It has also recommended measures to make it easier for customers to understand and compare electricity offers in the ACT by regularly telling their customers that they can visit the Australian Government’s Energy Made Easy website to check whether there is an even better offer available from another retailer.

Canberra’s sole water supplier Icon Water also announced it will not be increasing water and sewage rates for the coming financial year.

Icon Water’s decision is despite the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) allowing an increase of up to 1.5 per cent for the 2020/21 financial year.

Icon Water managing director Ray Hezkial said the company is in a position to freeze prices due to its long business cycle.

“Our assets have a life span of anything between 20 to 100 years so we feel we can absorb this loss in the short term without any immediate impact on our service. While this means we can offer some relief in the short term, unfortunately, a price freeze it is not sustainable in the longer term,” he said.

But Mr Hezkial reassured customers there will not be a big hike in future years.

However, Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said rates, taxes, fees and charges have more than tripled during the past decade, which has put additional pressures on the cost of living in Canberra.

Mr Coe said a Canberra Liberal government would freeze increases to rates if elected.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Labor’s record increases to rates and taxes were hurting thousands of struggling families and households right across the ACT.

“Only the Canberra Liberals will freeze rates from day one in government to reduce pressures on families and help more Canberrans get ahead,” Mr Coe said.

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