Wollongong council counts the cost

Wollongong ratepayers are being slugged millions of dollars each year because of increasing demands from state and federal governments.

According to a new report from Local Government NSW (LGNSW), the cost of state and federal services funded by Wollongong City Council reached $24 million in 2011-12 - a jump of more than 120 per cent in seven years.

The increase across all NSW councils went up just 37 per cent - from $380 million to $521 million - in the same period.

The figures come from the latest LGNSW survey on "cost-shifting", which measures how decisions made by state or federal governments - such as legislation, changes in policy or mandatory levies - affect councils.

While the data from the latest survey is from two years ago, Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he had seen an increase in financial pressure - mostly from the NSW government - during his council term.

For instance, he said the recent axing of the Lake Illawarra Authority meant Wollongong and Shellharbour councils were expected to manage state assets and run an estuary management committee to replace the authority without extra funding.

Cr Bradbery also said shifts in government policies could be costly for councils, pointing out that a change in safety requirements for backyard pools - to come into force in April - would have major flow-on cost for the council.

"We can charge $150 [for a pool inspection] but it doesn't anywhere near cover the cost of enforcements, visits and inspections," he said.

"So that's a classic example of where state legislation is put in place without any consideration for how they push the costs of implementation and regulation back on the local councils."

Cr Bradbery said more cost-shifting - as well as the NSW government's rate pegging policy which limited councils' ability to raise money - was part of the reason Wollongong council had recently applied to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for a 21 per cent rate rise over three years.

He said without these costs, there is more money for capital works and less pressure to raise rates.

Examples of cost-shifting in Wollongong LGA 2011-12:

■Fire and Rescue NSW contribution - $2.5 million

■Rural Fire Service - $402,000

■State Emergency Service contribution - $200,000

■Pensioner rates rebate - $1.8 million

■Public library operations - $4.4 million

■Administration of Companion Animal Act 1998 - $550,000

■State waste levy - $11.5million

■Limits on revenue raising on Crown Land - $250,000

■Flood mitigation - $94,000

■Shortfall in cost recovery for processing development applications - $2.8million

Note: Cost-shifting is when decisions made by state or federal governments - such as legislation, changes in policy or mandatory levies - affect local councils. 

Figures provided by Wollongong City Council.