Council urged to provide major concessions for businesses

THE Ipswich Chamber of Commerce is calling on the council to introduce significant concessions for local businesses to support them through the coronavirus pandemic.

Ipswich City Council has announced the first two stages of its multi-phased relief program.

The council waived a number of fees for food and entertainment businesses until June 30 last week, but that was before Prime Minister Scott Morrison forced them into shutdown.

Ipswich City Council will also look to inject money more quickly into the local economy by paying for goods and services within seven days instead of the current 30 day terms.

Earlier this week, the council fast-tracked $7.5 million worth of payments to contractors.

It has initiated a seven-day payment cycle instead of its normal 30-day billing period.

This means the council will pay more than $11 million for goods and services to businesses this week; an increase on the normal weekly payments of about $3.5 million.

Ipswich Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Phil Bell said it was crucial the council acted quickly.

"It's clear the State Government and the Federal Government were moving much more quickly than, certainly, Ipswich City Council to put in place some support measures," he said.

"I was pleased to receive some contact (on Thursday) from the office of economic development in Ipswich City Council.

"I got a very clear signal that they're keen to work with business now much more rapidly … to extend some concessions.

"The immediate challenge now is for council to move quickly. What we're looking for is a response from economic development that is rapid, that is targeted, that is certainly scalable and that delivers quick benefit and quick relief to these businesses that have seen their revenue in substantial decline."

Mr Bell said the biggest things hurting businesses during the crisis are fixed costs like rates and energy, which are eating into already dwindling revenue.

"That's something council can move on, to provide concessions or deferrals and give some relief to businesses," he said.

Mr Bell said local business owners are in "significant distress" and trying to navigate their way through the government support on offer.

But he said local businesses were used to substantial disruption, whether that be through local government upheaval or natural disasters.

"The thing that continues to impress me is we do have a very resilient and very optimistic business sector," he said.

The chamber is offering free membership up until June 30.

"Some of the best and most innovative solutions to some of these problems are coming from the business community themselves," Mr Bell said.

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