Deniliquin Council has condemend the NSW Government for diverting more than $500 million in costs to local government.By Zoe McMaugh
Community infrastructure projects are suffering because of constant cost shifting from the NSW Government, according to Deniliquin Council.
A study conducted by the Local Government and Shires Association (LGSA) revealed the state government has transferred more than $500 million in costs to local government in the 2010/11 financial year alone.
With the increased cost on councils, Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick said local priorities suffer as a result.
He said roadworks and redevelopment plans for the Deniliquin Town Hall were among the projects that have had to be postponed or shelved.
‘‘Council does not have any way of making money — we have no spare money.
‘‘Every time government takes more (money) from us, we have to try and find it from somewhere else.
‘‘It just takes your money away and it’s not a new thing.
‘‘We are sick and tired of governments, sometimes federal but mostly NSW, handballing to us. It just goes on and on.’’
Deniliquin Council general manager Des Bilske said examples of cost shifting from the NSW Government to local government were many, but he listed funding of libraries as a prime example.
‘‘Libraries used to be fully funded by the NSW Government, now they pay for just 16 per cent,’’ Mr Bilske said.
‘‘With cost shifting, it means communities are now paying for things that used to be paid for by the state.
‘‘Projects and services start as state initiated, and then government gradually withdraws.
‘‘As a result they are taking money away from funds which may have been used for road repairs and possibly even the refurbishment of the town hall.’’
Mr Bilske and Cr Renwick agreed the issue of cost shifting placed too much financial pressure on councils, and makes them dependent on funding and borrowing funds.
And because funding is so competitive, many of council’s attempts to get money for projects have been rejected.
Deniliquin Council has therefore supported a call to action from Local Government NSW to call ‘‘for an end to cost shifting’’.
LGA president Cr Keith Rhoades said some of the major cost shifting items identified in the survey include mandatory contributions to Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Services and NSW State Emergency Service, ‘‘inadequate’’ funding for public libraries and the NSW Government’s failure to reimburse councils for mandatory pensioner rebates for rates.
‘‘This is on top of the financial restrictions placed on the 152 councils across the state, courtesy of the NSW Government’s rate pegging system,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s not surprising the 2010/11 cost shifting amount of $499 million is equal to the estimated annual infrastructure renewal gap of $500 million per annum, as found in the Percy Allan Report.
‘‘While the NSW Government says that councils are often best placed to provide these cost shifted services to communities, councils do not have the means to keep taking on new jobs without adequate resourcing.’’
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