“Councils everywhere are in economic crisis and it’s crunch time,” says Keith Parsons, Greens candidate for Wallsend. “Expensive infrastructure must be replaced with sufficient funds to do the job. The Greens are calling for an immediate end to rate capping and Government cost shifting, as a way out of the problem.”
Cr Parsons, also a Newcastle councilor, said, “The recently released Percy Allen Report into the sustainability of Newcastle City Council provides chilling evidence.”
“Newcastle has an infrastructure maintenance backlog of $134 m. An extra $630 m is needed over the next 20 years to address the issue. This means inevitable massive borrowings, cuts in service levels and increases in rates and charges. This is ironic, given the community expects more from councils today than ever,” said Cr. Parsons.
“When a large regional council with an AA+ international efficiency rating and a performance benchmarking report judged to be close to world standard faces an economically unsustainable future, this should ring alarm bells for Local Government Minister Kerry Hickey.
“Mr Hickey should respond with support, ideas and strategies, rather than rhetoric, abuse and defending the indefensible – his government’s policies. We need genuine leadership.
“This not just a Newcastle crisis – it’s Statewide. The Greens are pledged to eliminating the root of the problem. We are calling for an immediate end to iniquitous rate capping and Government cost shifting to local councils.
“Rate capping is unique to NSW and supported by both major parties. While the NSW Government does what it likes with its own taxes, fees and charges, it limits councils’ revenues at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) level or below. Other council fees and charges are also set by the Government.
“Imagine a government or private company being forced to fix prices and fees at the CPI level or below. Imagine workers’ salaries being pegged at the CPI for the past 30 years. Yet this is what local government has had to put up with.”
Cr Parsons said that the other issue is “cost shifting” – transferring State responsibilities to councils without necessary resources.
“This has been ongoing for the past 20 years. Newcastle Council’s annual subsidy to the State is many millions of dollars.
“Both major parties have their heads in the sand about local government’s massive infrastructure crisis and prefer to play crude populist politics and limit rates increases with rate capping.
“Only the Greens pledge an end to rate capping and cost shifting. Only a Green vote is a vote for genuine local government reform in the best interests of the community,” said Cr Parsons.
For more information contact Cr Keith Parsons, Greens candidate for Wallsend, on 49265301 or 0408446022.