Supporting Business in Bendigo

What support could Bendigo Council give to the business sector during the Covid-19 crisis?

Across the country, businesses are struggling, especially small and medium-sized businesses. One way of measuring this is by looking at Jobkeeper data (latest data for postcodes). The latest figures show that for City of Greater Bendigo postcodes, there are at least 2000 businesses that have claimed Jobkeeper payments.

Of course, the main source of economic stimulus needs to be from state and federal governments, but local councils can play their part. The council has put out some measures to support local businesses, including business support webinars, and mentoring, but I would advocate for these additional support measures.

I think there are several ways in which the council could improve its supporting for businesses, especially at this time. Thanks are due to the business owners who spoke to me about their businesses, especially Michele Andrea from Eaglehawk eatery Let’s Get Saucy.

  1. Refund small fees such as outdoor dining and A-Frames for the 2019-2020 financial year. The council is waiving these fees for 2020-2021 but a refund would be much more useful for fees already paid.
  2. A partial waiver on 2020-2021 rates for businesses who have accessed Jobkeeper. The council is offering rates deferrals and payment plans, but a partial waiver would give much needed cashflow
  3. Better communication of business support. Council’s website is impersonal and hard to navigate. Its business support page is filled with lists of information-related websites, and support measures from council are nowhere to be found. A new, stand alone Covid-19 website needs to be developed that is intuitive to use.
  4. The council often puts out tenders for businesses, and has a procurement policy to guide how it selects winning businesses who apply for these tenders. Currently, local businesses receive a 15% ‘weighting’ when the council is selecting tender winners. This percentage needs to be urgently increased.