THE EMERGENCY SERVICES LEVY
Each year all landholders in WA pay an Emergency Services Levy (ESL), which is intended to be a fair way of raising the funds necessary for emergency services such as sea rescue and urban firefighting. The funds are collected by Shire Councils along with their annual rate notices and forwarded to DFES.
The level of the ESL each year is determined by DFES, on the basis of their estimates of what they need to carry out their functions. It is noteworthy that over the last few years, the ESL has increased each year at a rate about 50% greater than the inflation rate. In 2015-16 DFES collected $323 million in ESL.
There has been widespread concern in recent years that DFES alone sets the level of the ESL and determines how the funds are spent, with no overall control by government, as is normal with all other government agencies.
The issue was examined recently by the State Economic Regulation Authority, which called for submissions. A copy of the BFF submission can be found in Resources > ESL Submission.
In its final report, in September 2017, the ERA recommended, inter alia, that:
* An independent body should advise the Minister for Emergency Services on ESL rates and revenues
* Allocate funds to DFES and a rural fire service (if formed) and oversee how the funds are used
* The Treasury should review DFES structure, resources and administration costs to determine whether services are efficiently delivered
So far (November 2017) the Government has not responded to the ERA report. No doubt DFES and the United Firefighters Union are not exactly in favour of these changes.