Stirling ratepayers may have to make up for cuts to road maintenance funding

Who indeed? The City of Stirling says it may well be ratepayers who have to wear the cost of road maintenance now that access to government funding has been cut.
Who indeed? The City of Stirling says it may well be ratepayers who have to wear the cost of road maintenance now that access to government funding has been cut.

THE City of Stirling could be forced to pass extra costs on to ratepayers because of State Government cuts to road maintenance grants.

Stirling engineering design manager Paul Giamov said the plan was a 42 per cent cut for the City which could mean passing the cost to ratepayers or deferring road maintenance works.

“What is equally frustrating is that local governments were not advised of the proposed cuts to Direct Grant funding until after the 2017/2018 annual budgets were set, which left no opportunity to make arrangements for alternative funding,” he said.

“The difference in funding between 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 is $212,289, which represents a 42 per cent cut.”

In 2016-2017 the City received a direct grant of $504,190 for general road maintenance.

The previous state government announced the removal of council vehicle licence fee concessions, however this was recently scrapped by the new government and grant cuts were put in place.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said local governments could choose to direct saving from the restored licence concessions towards road budgets.

“Councils were expecting to have to pay their vehicle registration and stamp duty but no longer have to following the disallowance motion,” she said.

“To provide context, the State Government provides local governments with about $173 million a year in varied grants – this will be affected by about $10 million across 139 local governments.”

WA Local Government Association (WALGA) president Lynne Craigie said local communities would have to wear the costs of the “massive” cuts.

“Councils will be faced with the choice of passing on the additional financial pain to their communities or deferring road maintenance works indefinitely and ultimately putting community safety at risk,” she said.

“Everyone accepts the financial challenges facing the State Government and the goodwill shown to the sector by the new Administration on a number of issues but the clear intent of MLC Rick Mazza’s Disallowance Motion was that State’s budget recovery should not be a cost shift to Councils.

“Local Government was being treated unfairly and the Upper House was prepared to do its job and prevent such an injustice from occurring but sadly, it seems, the State Government hasn’t accepted this decision.”

Cr Craigie said local government accounted for almost 90 per cent of the roads but received only 21 per cent of the revenue from vehicle registrations when previously it was 27 per cent.