Shire's ratepayers stretched to the limit

Northern Grampians Shire Councillors are determined to continue fighting to ensure ratepayers are not disadvantaged by further cuts to funding for local government.

Cr Jason Hosemans agrees ratepayers are already stretched to the limit.

Cr Jason Hosemans agrees ratepayers are already stretched to the limit.

Council has agreed to lobby the federal government against the freeze on indexation of Financial Assistance Grants, which stands to cost the council $576,000 over the next three years.

Unfortunately, councillors recognise that measures will need to be put in place to offset the shortfall, meaning an increase in rates or cuts to services.

As well as lobbying the federal government for the freeze on indexation for the grants to be overturned, council has also raised concerns over State Labor's recently announced policy 'A Fair go for Ratepayers'.

This policy would require councils with above Consumer Price Index rate rises to appeal to the Essential Services Commission to justify any rate increases. This process is effectively capping rates and would result in reduced services to the community.

Cr Jason Hosemans said council was already mindful of the capacity to pay of its ratepayers and that was one reason for keeping the rate increase in the current draft budget at five percent.

"Our ratepayers are already stretched to the limit," Cr Hosemans said.

"We came up with a five percent rate rise in our current budget and the impact rate capping and reducing grants will have on the services we provide, will be enormous.

"It will mean we either have to increase our rates further, or services need to be cut. Our ratepayers can't afford any more, so it has to be cuts to services."

Cr Karen Hyslop had made an attempt to move the recommendation to lobby against the federal government's indexation freeze, but sought to have the concern about State Labor's new policy removed. There was no seconder for her motion, which lapsed.

However, Cr Hyslop still echoed concerns of other councillors with regards to asking ratepayers to continue footing the bill for government cuts.

"We can't keep asking our ratepayers for more and more money," Cr Hyslop said.

"If we can keep our rate increases in line with CPI, it would relieve a lot of pressure off our ratepayers. That is a focus I would like to try and work towards."

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