$2.3M not enough for council

THE Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) is set to receive about $2.3 million in State Government amalgamation funding, but Mayor Ron Bellingham says it isn’t enough.

It was announced yesterday the SDRC was one of six councils chosen from a group of 25 that applied for the funding, to receive a share of $18 million in “one-off top-up payments” to help meet the costs of amalgamation.

“The (costs of amalgamation to SDRC) were in excess of $5 million; I guess I’m disappointed that we did not get those funds back because Peter Beattie and Andrew Fraser did indicate that the costs would be met and now that hasn’t been met,” Councillor Bellingham said.

“Having said that I guess we are a lot better off than some other councils that have received nothing.”

The Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC) examined the 25 council submissionsregarding the costs of theirlocal government amalgamations.

The QTC’s individual report identifies Southern Downs as having a weak forecast operating position.

While this weak operating position is predominantly structural in nature and not the result of amalgamation, Local Government Minister Desley Boyle said the State Government accepted the QTC independent recommendation.

Ms Boyle said at the time of amalgamation the Southern Downs Regional Council received $750,000 of the $27.1million paid out to amalgamating councils.

She said this extra $2,388,700 was in excess of that.

“In addition to amalgamation funding, Southern Downs has received $4.7 million inlocal government subsidies and project funding since July 2006,” Ms Boyle said.

Cr Bellingham said the extra costs of amalgamation which the State Government has not met will now have to be passed on to ratepayers.

“There is no other alternative source of funds we can access,” Cr Bellingham said.

“We are, as far as I’m concerned, financially sound, but that does not mean we are being adequately financed.

“Local government has avery important role to play; everyone tells us it’s the closest level of government to thepeople – well, we know that – but they’re just words.

“Local government needs to be adequately funded. The model in place now in my view is not the correct model,” he said.

“I’m delighted (about the $2.3 million), the minister rang and told me and I am pleased that we have got that bit of money, but in a $55 million budget it is quite a small part.”

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