Council wants grant indexation restored this year
Funding vital to the way local councils support their communities must be restored in the upcoming financial year.
That is the message Berrigan Shire Council is sending to the Federal Government, which put a freeze on indexation of Financial Assistance Grants in 2014.
Berrigan Shire Mayor Matthew Hannan said the funds play an important role in helping council provide vital services and infrastructure for the community.
He said that is why the Commonwealth Government is now being urged to honour its promise to restore indexation in the 2017-18 Federal Budget.
To date the local government sector has received no firm guarantee it will occur.
‘‘The untied Financial Assistance Grants are an important part of our revenue base, allowing us to provide and maintain the shire’s local community infrastructure such as the town entrance and main street beautification programs in Finley and Tocumwal and the ongoing provision of shade sails over children’s playgrounds,’’ Cr Hannan said.
‘‘The Commonwealth’s decision in the 2014 Federal Budget to freeze indexation of this valued funding means Berrigan Shire Council has received a reduced level of grants for the past three years.
‘‘I has put a noticeable dent in our cash flow and is impacting on the services we’re able to provide to our community.
‘‘The Australian Government previously committed to restore indexation in this year’s Federal Budget and the Berrigan Shire Council and community will hold them to their promise.
‘‘Politicians in Canberra must restore indexation of the grants so Berrigan Shire Council can meet our community’s demand for services and provide the level and quality of service that they deserve.’’
Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins said the indexation freeze on grants has already cost the shire $250,000 in funding.
He said that money will never be recouped, and the council cannot afford to endure further losses.
As well as a push from individual councils, the wider Local Government NSW membership is also calling for the restoration of indexation.
LGNSW president Keith Rhoades said collectively, the Abbott Government’s de- cision has ‘‘already ripped almost $260 million from New South Wales councils over three years’’.
‘‘The three-year freeze has had a harsh impact on NSW councils — and that impact is ongoing, because the freeze has resulted in a permanent base reduction of around 13 per cent,’’ he said.
Cr Rhoades said the freeze had been particularly tough on NSW councils, which are being squeezed from all sides by rate-capping and cost-shifting by both the state and federal governments, valued at roughly $600 million per annum.
At the same time NSW councils have been asked to prove their financial fitness or face forcible amalgamation, he said.
‘‘It’s exactly these sort of financial constraints that make it almost impossible for councils to get ahead,’’ he said.