Council to look into budget effects

A Wollongong community group has warned Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery not to use federal budget cuts as an excuse to slash services or raise fees as the council continues to implement its controversial financial sustainability review.

At Monday night’s Wollongong City Council meeting, Cr Bradbery used a lord mayoral minute to ask the administration to investigate how Joe Hockey’s budget cuts would affect the council’s bottom line for its 2014-15 budget.

“As a council, we have worked hard to ensure our financial sustainability and now need to understand the impact of the federal budget on local government and more specifically Wollongong city,” he said.

Last week, Cr Bradbery told a forum of union and community representatives he expected the council would be hit by federal cuts, saying he was anticipating money from grants would ‘‘flat line’’ over the next three years.

He estimated the council could lose about $3 million from these grants and said there were also risks of further ‘‘cost shifting’’ onto local government as the NSW government grappled with federal health and education cuts.

If this occurred, Cr Bradbery said last week, councils across the country would be given no choice but to cut services.

But Save Our Services spokesman Stephen Spencer said the council needed to look at how money could be saved by aligning the cost of services and infrastructure expenditure against industry standards and reviewing the organisation’s corporate overheads.

‘‘The temptation to use the federal budget as an excuse to make more cuts to services, or impose more in fees and charges for them, is I’m sure there among some in the council,’’ Mr Spencer said.

‘‘The community will react strongly if the council again refuses to have a good, hard look at itself, and makes further cuts to services instead.’’

Cr Bradbery’s motion was supported unanimously, with David Brown speaking in favour of the council gaining updated information before adopting its annual budget in June.

“This is not going to be an easy process to get through to the end of this financial year, and we may well need a mini budget to see where we stand,” Cr Brown said. 

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