Thursday, April 25, 2024

Rockhampton mayor slams funding cut

Rockhampton Regional Council has slammed a decision by the Queensland Local Government Grants Commission to cut funding to the Council, labelling it an unfair burden on the community.

Mayor Tony Williams said the decision to reduce Council’s funding by $6.774 million a year will have a serious impact on the Budget.

“To be frank, I would label this decision a joke except no one in our community will be laughing,” Mayor Williams said.

“I can’t overemphasise the seriousness of what this means for Council and the impact it will have on our region.

“Financial Assistance Grants, funded by the Federal Government and then managed by the State Government through this independent commission, are a cornerstone source of income of our budget.

“In December last year, we were told our Council area was being reclassified into the same category as the likes of Brisbane (1.1 million people), Gold Coast (635,000), Moreton Bay Council (479,000), Sunshine Coast (336,000) and a number of other larger Councils.

“It is obvious our population is far smaller than most of these centres – around 13 times smaller than Brisbane alone.”

The move will see Council’s Financial Assistance Grant funding cut by 25% a year, the Mayor said.

” So that in three years’ time we will have gone from $9 million a year to just over $2.2 million.”

“We tried to raise with the Grants Commission that Rockhampton didn’t belong in this category, along with Toowoomba, Bundaberg and Fraser Coast who were also reclassified, and we were told the decision had been made and signed off on.”

Deputy Mayor Neil Fisher said the impact would be felt especially hard by the Rockhampton Region.

“The Queensland Local Government Grants Commission reduced funding allocations to a number of Councils and said the average reduction would be around 2% of operating revenue.”

“Well for us, the cut is closer to 5% or two and a half times higher than what the grants commission said the average was, so we’ve been hit twice – first we’re reclassified into the minimum category and then our funding is cut far greater than the average,” Cr Fisher said.

Mayor Williams said Council was now left in a very tough position.

“This loss of funding presents a significant ongoing funding shortfall which Council will need to work through over the coming months as we look at this year’s Budget,” he said.

“It comes at a time when the airport revenue has decreased by $6.7 million from previous forecasts since COVID hit in 2020 and the cost of trucking water to Mount Morgan has already reached $3.9 million dollars to date.

“These hopefully short term challenges brought about by the pandemic and drought are already tough for Council to bear, so to receive this news that we’re also going to be significantly worse off in the long term with less grant funding is a real blow.

“At this point, Council hasn’t made any decisions about how we will address these significant issues. We will be increasing the number of Council meetings over the coming months so we can work through the options in the lead up to Council’s budget and we will be talking to the community throughout that process,” the Mayor said. 

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