The State Budget is still weeks away but the association has uncovered an interesting piece of economic information with implications far beyond what it means for the budget of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).

Firstly, the table below shows the total amount of Emergency Services Levy (ESL) collected every year since 2015/16 – including last year’s budgeted and current estimate for the 2020/21 financial year.

Total Emergency Services Levy (ESL) collected 2015-2020

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Budget 2020 Actual est
Total ESL collected $320,521,000 $338,891,000 $356,004,000 $391,522,000 $405,140,000 $405,015,000 $372,537,000
% change from prev yr 5.73% 5.05% 9.98% 3.48% -0.03% -8.02%

Given the government has committed to not increase the ESL rate for the current year, the $33m decrease in the total amount to be collected can only be attributed to an 8% fall in the Valuer General’s estimate of Gross Rental Value (GRV) of Western Australian property.

This will be of interest to many industry sectors, but for us and our members, the most important question is how this is likely to impact on the already under-funded volunteer Bush Fire Service.

In short, the answer should be none.

According to government documents, the DFES budget will receive $40m more than it did last year “appropriated by Parliament for the purposes of the services provided under the emergency services Acts“.¬†Interestingly, the same document shows that with this $40m, the DFES “Total cost of services” for the 2020/21 financial year will be $462,176,000…. $10m MORE than last year’s State Budget forecast.

As we’ve said for a number of years, the transparency of the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) is far from transparent and successive governments have reacted to our determination for the truth with ever increasing hostility, so the sad fact is we won’t know what the extra $10m is for until at least October when the Budget is read into Parliament.¬†However, there is likely to be mention of the Department’s involvement in WA’s COVID-19 response and with an election only 6 months away, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some of it being spent on a new training facility to replace the aging Forrestfield Academy for the career Fire and Rescue Service.

We will continue to work as collaboratively as possible with government to improve the decision-making process and use of ESL more transparent in the interest of our incredible members and the communities they serve.