By Adam Coleman In Coffs Harbour, NSW
NSW Minister for Local Government Paul Lynch opened the Local Government Association of NSW annual conference in Coffs Harbour with the claim that the Commonwealth’s Financial Assistance scheme has short-changed NSW councils.
The Commonwealth funds local councils directly through the Financial Assistance Grants program.
Minister Lynch told delegates that in the past 11 years, local councils in Australia have lost more than $2 billion in Financial Assistance Grants from the Commonwealth.
“New South Wales’ share of that loss is $588 million,” he said.
“In 96-96, New South Wales’ share of the national pool was 32.379 per cent. In 2007-2008, New South Wales’ share has been reduced to 31.6899 per cent.
“I will be raising my concerns on these matters with the Australian Government at every opportunity, however its important that councils give a clearer picture of their current asset position so that as a sector we can better argue our case."
On the issue of council amalgamations, Mr Lynch reassured councils that the NSW Government did not support forced amalgamations.
“I’ve never been a convert to that notion. That not to say I won’t support voluntary amalgamations,” he said.
Mr Lynch also said he supported the LGA decision to exempt NSW councils from the Federal Government’s WorkChoices legislation.
He pledged to guarantee NSW councils’ workers conditions under the State-based IR system and encouraged them to “stand firm against the pressures of WorkChoices”.
“[WorkChoices] creates more red tape for councils, damages productivity and will leave workers with less pay in their pockets,” the Minister said.
Mr Lynch told delegates he was encouraged by the good job many councils were doing in sharing resources and in entering into strategic alliances.
“About 125 councils are engaged in or planning resource-sharing arrangements, saving hard-earned ratepayers’ money in the process,” he said.
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