Federal Budget: Yarriambiack, West Wimmera councils disappointed

Yarriambiack councillor Terry Grange believes the budgets are a kick in the guts. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Yarriambiack councillor Terry Grange believes the budgets are a kick in the guts. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

YARRIAMBIACK and West Wimmera councils are disappointed with Tuesday's Federal Budget.

West Wimmera Shire councillors discussed the budget while working on the shire's own budget at Wednesday's meeting.

Mayor Ron Hawkins said a freeze on the indexation of Local Government Financial Assistance Grants was most concerning.

The grant rises were formerly indexed according to changes in the consumer price index.

"It's definitely a negative," Cr Hawkins said.

"It will make things difficult."

Corporate and community services manager Venkat Peteti said small rural councils relied heavily on government grants to survive.

Yarriambiack Shire Mayor Andrew McLean said reduced funding to local government was a serious concern.

Council receives about $1 million in direct funding from the Federal Government each year.

Cr McLean said reduced funding such as the freeze on the assistance grants would hit the shire.

"If they're taking funding away from us that comes back to our ratepayers," he said.

He said it could result in cuts to services.

Cr McLean said he was also concerned a $7 'patient contribution' fee charged to people when they saw a doctor would cause issues.

"I believe it will lead to more people attending the hospital instead," he said.

Cr McLean said it would take time before people understood how the budget could affect them.

"The pot of gold is only so big." - Yarriambiack chief executive Ray Campling

Cr Terry Grange shared his anger at both the state and federal budgets at Wednesday's Yarriambiack Shire Council meeting.

He said the lack of additional funding for kindergartens would put 15 hours a week in jeopardy.

He also slammed the grants freeze and cuts to schools and hospital funding.

"I've got grave concerns on how it might affect our community," he said.

"It's a kick in the guts."

Cr Grange said both budgets had aspects of cost-shifting that would affect Wimmera people.

"I think we need to be well aware and really out there and let the community know to put pressure on their pollies,'' he said.

"There are only so many bikkies in the bucket.

"I think the whole thing is a kick in the guts, not for the council but for the community."

Cr Grange said he was disappointed the State Budget did not include funding for the renewal of the Country Roads and Bridges, Putting Locals First or Local Government Infrastructure programs.

Chief executive Ray Campling said the state and federal governments were not only cost-shifting, but responsibility-shifting.

He said a new Labor plan to cap council rates at the consumer price index would also hurt councils.

"It will restrict some of our services and some of these services will no longer be viable,'' he said.

"The pot of gold is only so big."

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