Opposition spokeswoman for Local Government Sophie Cotsis with council representatives from across NSW at the Local Government conference in Coffs Harbour.
Opposition spokeswoman for Local Government Sophie Cotsis with council representatives from across NSW at the Local Government conference in Coffs Harbour. Trevor Veale

Petition condemns funding cuts to cash-strapped councils

RATEPAYERS whose councils are on the brink of budget cuts and rate increases are being asked to support a State Opposition petition condemning Prime Minister Tony Abbott from cutting $288 million in funding to cash-strapped councils.

The petition launched at the Local Government NSW Conference this afternoon in Coffs Harbour will be tabled in State Parliament by Opposition spokeswoman for Local Government Sophie Cotsis if it achieves 10,000 signatures.

The lost funding, Ms Cotsis says follows the Federal Government's move to freeze indexation of Local Government Financial Assistance Grants, which have provided $44-billion to local communities since they were introduced by the Whitlam Government.

"The Abbott Government's decision to cut $288 million from this important program will mean that all councils across New South Wales will be forced to make cutbacks to vital road upgrades, infrastructure work and community services such as child care," Ms Cotsis said.

It is claimed the only option for regional councils will be to cut services or increase rates further if the funding is not restored immediately.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole agreed the Federal Government's decision was disappointing.

"The NSW Government has opposed the callous and careless cuts since the Federal Budget was released," Mr Toole said.

"The indexation freeze will undoubtedly place pressure on all New South Wales councils.

"The NSW Government's Fit for the Future program will result in stronger more robust councils that will partner with the state to provide the services that their communities deserve and needs."

Ms Cotsis said the North Coast block of councils, including Coffs Harbour City Council, could loss as much as $2-million in funding.

The petition launch came after Premier Mike Baird spoke at the conference this morning.

The Opposition took the Premier to task for not fielding questions from the floor after he addressed the annual conference of New South Wales mayors, general managers and council staffers.

Pressed for time, Mr Baird caught a plane back to Sydney immediately after he spoke.

His office explained he had a Cabinet meeting to attend this afternoon.



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