The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale council has authorised the cancellation of events, the closure of community centres and initiated a response plan as part of a suite of measures endorsed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The measures were unanimously supported by the council during a special council meeting on March 23 and formed part of a 26-step recommendation designed to help the shire prepare for the impact of the virus.
It is understood an internal working group has been established and the shire is investigating which officers have the capacity to work from home and the feasibility of live-streaming council meetings.
With little certainty over how the virus may affect the shire for the foreseeable future, chief executive Paul Martin said it was about ensuring the organisation was well prepared and that staff were adequately supported – with the shire administration building likely to have to shut down completely.
Mr Martin said it was likely there would be increases in expenditure but significant changes to the shire’s income –admitting that he expected rate defaults to increase.
While councillors extended thanks to the shire’s chief executive and directors for the prompt compilation of the report, several cited concerns about the lack of community consultation and the need for the shire to demonstrate more leadership and step up its communication.
Councillor Rob Coales said he believed the document did not go far enough to protect ratepayers during a state of emergency, many of whom had already lost their jobs as a result.
“This is a difficult situation but what I have noted is a lack of involvement with stakeholders,” he said.
“This document appears to provide protection for our staff but in my opinion, it doesn’t go far enough to protect ratepayers.
“There are people in our community without a job and there is an opportunity for us to step up as a local government.
“It is our duty to serve and provide services to the residents.”
Mr Martin said he was happy to take the feedback on board but reiterated that the response plan was designed to be much more community and business focused.