Coun­cil fights to save fund­ing

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CHAR­LIE PEEL char­lie. peel@ news. com. au

TOWNSVILLE CITY Coun­cil will lobby the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to scrap a pol­icy that would see the city miss out on $ 877,000 in fund­ing over the next three years.

The ram­i­fi­ca­tions could be felt through­out the com­mu­nity with a drop in coun­cil ser­vices or rise in rates in­evitable as coun­cil taps into other rev­enue streams to fill the void left by the freeze in Fi­nan­cial As­sis­tance Grants.

Mayor Jenny Hill said the im­pact was be­ing felt by coun­cils na­tion­wide and backed the Gov­er­nance and Fi­nance Com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tion to ex­press the coun­cil’s con­cern to Herbert MP Ewen Jones. The fed­er­ally funded grants are given to lo­cal gov­ern­ments each year and in­vested in es­sen­tial com­mu­nity in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment de­cided last year to freeze Fi­nan­cial As­sis­tance Grants at their cur­rent rate and not to in­dex them un­til the end of the 2016/ 17 fi­nan­cial year. This means the amount funded will re­main the same and will not rise in ac­cor­dance with in­fla­tion, low­er­ing the pur­chas­ing power of the funds, which will re­sult in a loss to the coun­cil of $ 877,000 over three years. “What it means is we would have to put the rates up or else cut ser­vices or find ef­fi­cien­cies,” Cr Hill said.

“If we had that money in­dexed, there could have been another half a per cent saved in rates. We’re look­ing at ef­fi­cien­cies and with amal­ga­ma­tion there are still ef­fi­cien­cies that we can make but at some point, you can’t make any more.”

Ms Hill said if the in­dexed fund­ing was made avail­able the coun­cil “could have pos­si­bly passed on lower rates or looked to fund other ar­eas of ex­pen­di­ture”.

The 2015/ 16 bud­get handed down a 1.45 per cent rate rise.

Mr Jones, who sits on the Ru­ral and Re­gional Lib­er­als Com­mit­tee, said he had al­ready raised the is­sue with Deputy Prime Min­is­ter War­ren Truss.

“I un­der­stand there are sav­ings be­ing made but I would like to see the freeze un­done in the third and fourth years,” Mr Jones said.

“War­ren said he’d look at it and he’s in a re­gional seat and is a for­mer mayor with a lo­cal gov­ern­ment back­ground, so he’s got a soft spot for it but there has been no of­fi­cial re­ply yet.”

Mr Jones said the coun­cil was “not re­ally telling the full story” and had ben­e­fited greatly from the ex­tra fund­ing brought for­ward in 2014/ 15 un­der the Roads to Re­cov­ery pro­gram.

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