The Andrews Labor Government has welcomed the Victorian Auditor General’s Local Government 2015-16 Audit Snapshot Report, tabled in Parliament today.
The report – which audited finances and performance of 79 councils and 11 regional library corporations – was predominantly positive for the sector finding there was a combined surplus of $1.6 billion for the last financial year but identified emerging issues for 19 small shire councils.
The data confirms the long term damage to small rural councils done by the freeze on indexation of the Federal Assistance Grants.
Earlier this year, the Victoria Grants Commission’s annual report confirmed the Turnbull Government had reduced funding to Victorian councils by up to $200 million over four years since the indexation freeze began.
This has meant Victoria’s councils are missing out on significant funding for much needed services.
The annual report is a crucial measure of council transparency and alongside councils’ own reporting measures. The Labor Government’s Know Your Council website also provides ratepayers with a clear picture of how their local government is performing.
While concerning, the findings on 19 small shire councils do not indicate any immediate risk.
The Commonwealth’s approach to local government is in stark contrast to the Labor Government, who is working harder than ever to supporting rural councils.
The Victorian Budget2016/17 provided $3.2 million over four years for the Local Government Finance and Accounting Support Team program.
Rules have also been changed for capital grants for libraries to make it easier for rural councils to access funds and there are proposals to reduce red tape through the our review of the Local Government Act.
This is in addition to record funding for libraries and the $5.2 million Roadside Weeds and Pests Management Program which is assisting rural councils to plan and manage weeds and pests on rural roadsides.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins
“The cuts to Federal Assistance Grants by the Liberals over the last three years have had a huge impact on smaller councils and it is revenue they can’t replace.”
“We understand smaller rural councils are faced with long term issues and we will work with them to ensure residents are put first and continue to receive the services and representation they deserve.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020