While local governments are looking at having their operating budgets slashed by the federal government, Page MP Kevin Hogan has tried to spruik the annual grants to local councils as ‘committed to supporting local communities.’
But north coast councils aren’t happy and say they’ve been shortchanged.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell says councils now face a bleaker financial future and the National Party MP was not giving the full story on the Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) he announced for Page electorate councils totalling around $29 million.
Cr Dowell said Lismore would get around $100,000 less than expected because of the decision to freeze rather than index the grants, which are no-strings-attached funding for councils to spend according to local priorities.
She told ABC North Coast it was vital that the ‘full picture’ of the impact councils faced was fully explained by including cuts they now faced as a result of the freeze.
‘We welcome this money, but it has to be pointed out it’s a cut on last year’s and most of the councils would have factored in the same amount as last year into their budget so would now be facing an unfavourable variation as they go into their next quarterly report,’ Cr Dowell said.
Australian Local Government Association (AGLA) president Felicity-Ann Lewis said the decision to freeze the indexation of FAGs ‘will impact on the level of local services available to every community across Australia’.
The ALGA at its recent at their recent national general assembly in Canberra called on the government to reinstate indexing immediately.
Cr Lewis said that because the CPI and population growth figures used for FAGs had been suspended, it would ‘cut $925 million in revenue to local government by 2017-18’.
She said ‘the decision to freeze the indexation of FAGs will impact on the level of local services available to every community across Australia.’
A request by Echonetdaily for a further explanation from Mr Hogan was given short shrift.
Asked how these cuts to NSW council budgets was committing ‘to supporting local communities’, Mr Hogan’s media spokesperson replied with a statement from National Party leader Warren Truss’s office.
‘The government has not reduced funding to local government, it is only the rate at which Financial Assistance Grants to councils increase that has been paused. Local governments are receiving no less than they did under the former Labor government. In fact, this year (2014-15) Local Government will receive $30 million more than in 2013-14 after adjustments for population were made.’
Also at the ALGA conference, a second urgent motion was debated and passed calling on the federal government to reverse the decision to cease payments under the National Partnership Agreement on Certain Pensioner Concessions for Pensioner Concession Cards and Senior Card Holders that will negatively impact on council budgets.