26000 council jobs safe from funding cut

BRC CEO Steve Johnston said it's scaremongering to suggest council jobs are under threat, after a 40 per cent cut to local government funding under the Works for Queensland program. Picture: FILE

By Aaron Goodwin

Bundaberg Regional Council (BRC) CEO Steve Johnston said it’s scaremongering to suggest council jobs are under threat, after local MPs labelled the 2022/33 Queensland State Labor Budget disastrous for local governments.

The budget has unveiled a 40 per cent cut to local government funding under the Works for Queensland program, $88 million in 2022-23, down from $148 last financial year.

Burnett MP Stephen Bennett and Hinkler MP Keith Pitt called on BRC to condemn the cut.

Mr Johnston said the local government sector across Queensland is advocating through the Local Government Association of Queensland for the successful Works for Queensland program to continue at previous levels.

Mr Bennett said local councils across the state will not be able to support their current workforce with 26000 jobs at risk given this massive cut.

“How can our council’s stand by and see a massive funding cut and a huge waste levy increase and not call the State out on it,” Mr Bennett said.

“The bad news doesn’t end there with the Waste Levy also on the rise, this means more taxes on locals when they visit council dumps.

“Finally, most alarming to me is the lack of funding for our local roads.

”I can’t stress how vital this funding is.

“It maintains a huge network of local government roads but there has been no increase in funding yet again.

”This has been the case since 2015.”

Mr Johnston said local governments all over Australia are seeking an increase in federal assistance grants.

”While one-off and short-term programs are welcome, higher recurrent funding is better for long-term planning and sustainability, and to reduce the cost burden on ratepayers,” Mr Johnston said.

”For example, many federal and state grant programs require a matching contribution from local government.

”In addition to the more than $13 million for the Bundaberg Regional Aquatic Centre, the Works for Queensland program has funded more than 200 projects throughout the Bundaberg Region including recreational precinct upgrades, the Walla Street Skate Park redevelopment, Apple Tree Creek evacuation route and Boreham Park upgrades.”

Mr Pitt said the Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey was quick to say the Federal Budget in March was good “for koalas and Antarctica but not so good for Hinkler”.

“We now know that the Mayor’s criticism of the Federal Budget was because he was setting up a platform of issues to run on as an independent candidate in the Federal election,” Mr Pitt said.

“It’s no secret the Bundaberg Mayor has been ‘distracted’, now we need our council leaders to step up and focus on what really matters.

“When it comes to the State Government however, why hasn’t the Mayor called out the State on its Budget which has delivered very little for the region, but re-announced projects and only a tiny portion of funding for Paradise Dam and initial works on the new hospital?

“The new taxes on businesses and demand for a waste levy be paid in advance will affect Bundaberg ratepayers, so why isn’t the Mayor standing up for them?”

The State Budget’s capital statement reads: ”The $1 billion Works for Queensland program will continue to support local governments outside South East Queensland by funding job-creating maintenance and minor infrastructure projects relating to assets owned or controlled by local governments.

”The Works for Queensland program will be boosted with an additional $200 million to deliver on the government’s election commitment over six years from 2021–22, bringing the total program funding to $1 billion.”