Shire calls for more

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr and Cally Dupe

A Pil­bara Shire pres­i­dent has called on the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to go fur­ther in sup­port­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments af­ter it lifted a freeze on an in­fra­struc­ture grants pro­gram.

Last week’s Fed­eral Bud­get re­vealed the Gov­ern­ment would re­sume the in­dex­a­tion of Fed­eral As­sis­tance Grants, a move it said would “re­sult in an ex­tra $836.5 mil­lion pro­vided over the for­ward es­ti­mates”.

The Com­mon­wealth an­swered a years-long na­tional push to abol­ish the freeze on in­dex­a­tion of the grants im­posed in 2014-15 af­ter coun­cils threat­ened to scale back ser­vices rather than raise rates.

Shire of Ash­bur­ton pres­i­dent Kerry White said the freeze on the value of FAGs meant the Shire had lost about $250,000 in po­ten­tial rev­enue over four years. “It is not just the lost rev­enue, but also the fact our rev­enue pre­dicted in 201718 is back at 2014-15 lev­els, re­sult­ing in a fur­ther es­ti­mated $180,000 in lost rev­enue in this com­ing bud­get and the cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect that has in fu­ture bud­gets,” she said.

“The Fed­eral Bud­get con­tained wel­come news that in­dex­a­tion of Fi­nan­cial As­sis­tance Grants would be re­stored.

“How­ever, more needs to be done to ad­dress the fund­ing short­fall that still ex­ists, to en­sure that coun­cils have ca­pac­ity to sup­port in­fra­struc­ture main­te­nance and de­vel­op­ment.” City of Kar­ratha Mayor Peter Long said the grants were an im­por­tant but rel­a­tively mi­nor com­po­nent of the City’s in­come.

“The de­ci­sion to abol­ish the freeze on the in­dex­a­tion of Fed­eral As­sis­tance Grants is un­doubt­edly a pos­i­tive out­come for the City of Kar­ratha and will en­sure fund­ing keeps pace with the con­sumer price in­dex and in­creas­ing de­mand for ser­vices,” he said.

“Any shift in the amount re­ceived by the City is un­likely to make any sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence to our over­all bud­get po­si­tion.”

The Fed­eral grants are of­fered each year for coun­cils to help de­liver in­fra­struc­ture and cap­i­tal works through­out their re­gions.

In 2015, dozens of coun­cils voted to sup­port the Aus­tralian and WA Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tions, which re­quested that they sup­port a cam­paign urg­ing the Com­mon­wealth to re­sume in­dex­a­tion.

More needs to be done to ad­dress the fund­ing short­fall that still ex­ists. Kerry White

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