Council faces ‘grim’ economic future

GLOUCESTER Shire general manager Danny Green said the council faced a “grim” economic future, both in the short and longer term after releasing its 2014-15 budget and operation plan for public comment.

Gloucester Shire Council general manager Danny Green.

Gloucester Shire Council general manager Danny Green.

Mr Green said council’s 10-year delivery program would be placed in severe jeopardy without the introduction of a special rates variation that would potentially see rates double over the next five years.

Council has calculated the cost to bring its assets to a good condition would be in the vicinity of $74 million while the annual maintenance fee required to keep them at that same level would be $8.3 million.

The service provider is considering several special rate variations with the highest - an 18 per cent rise over five years - doubling council’s income from rates within the next decade.

Mr Green said such a scenario was the only way council could manage the backlog of works detailed in its delivery program.

Council has already started to reduce the level of service it provides in some areas due to its financial position, Mr Green said. 

“In line with next year’s constrained budget, council proposes to reduce opening hours at the hydrotherapy and Olympic pools and reduce service delivery in the parks and gardens,” he said. 

Reduced federal government funding for local councils will also hurt the budget bottom line. Financial assistance grants for local government will be frozen for the next five years.

It means councils across the country will lose roughly $1 billion in revenue each year.

“That’s monumental money to a small council like us,” Mr Green said.

In a bid to save costs, council will spend just under $500,000 on a new waste management strategy in the coming financial year.

“A review of waste management aimed at increasing recycling and reducing the State imposed waste levy will see a revamp of how the landfill site will be utilised and the associated fee structure,” Mr Green said. 

“It will mean a capital works program at the tip and a change to user charges.”

Council will also hope for a boost in the form of $8 million worth of federal funding for an upgrade of the Bucketts Way. 

The money had been approved by the previous Labor government but was put on hold following last year’s federal election. 

Mr Green said as a consequence council’s net operating result for 2013-14 had not reached the projected $8.1 million surplus.

“The good news is that we have received confirmation the money will be paid,” he said.

“It’s now just a matter of going back through the formal approvals process.”

Council’s delivery program and operational plan will remain on public exhibition for the next 28 days.