SOUTH Gippsland residents are the winners, by almost $1/2 million in extra Victorian Grants Commission funding, and Bass Coast is the loser.
They’re likely to get only $20,000 more this year than they got last year, despite a concerted lobbying effort; a total of $6.06 million.
South Gippsland, by comparison, is punching above its weight division in getting $9.644 million this year, up by 5.4 per cent from $9.147 million last year.
Members of the Victorian Grants Commission, charged with the responsibility of fairly distributing the $594.94 million (+5.2%) allocated to it by the Commonwealth Government this year, visited South Gippsland last Wednesday to say how they cut the cake.
Apart from having to give 15 inner city Melbourne municipalities, which don’t really need the extra money, a minimum of $20.84 per resident out of the pool, it all seems fair enough based on such things as age profile, population dispersion, remoteness, and cost of maintaining roads and bridges.
South Gippsland Shire Councillors had a sit-down briefing last Wednesday delivered by the Chair of the Victorian Grants Commission John Watson, commission member Julie Eisenbise and executive officer Colin Morrison.
And they were able to ask questions afterwards.
Cr Jeremy Rich, who appeared to be playing with his mobile phone throughout the two-hour address by the commissioner, asked about the impact of population dispersal, that is the need to locate services such as town pools, libraries, community hubs and sporting facilities in several towns where city municipalities only needed to supply one set of facilities.
Mr Morrison acknowledged that it was more-costly to provide services in a large number of centres and this was accounted for in the distribution.
Cr Rich continued his questioning despite being asked by the Mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt to direct his questions through the chair so that other councillors could get a go.
“Alright, if you don’t want me to ask any questions, I won’t,” replied Cr Rich, his response witnessed by the municipal monitor Peter Stephenson who is attending all council meetings, even councillor-only sessions.
Cr Don Hill wanted to know if the commission kept data on what councils did with the essentially unrestricted grants.
And Cr Andrew McEwen asked if any other agencies used the Grants Commission’s formula.
The South Gippsland Shire Council will get $5.992 million in General Purpose Grants this year, up 7.4% on last year and $3.652 million in Local Roads Grants, up 2.4%.
Already half of that funding has been received with the remainder to be paid in equal instalments in mid-August, mid-November, mid-February 2019 and mid-May 2019.
Mr Watson said the freeze on Grants Commission funding over the past few years meant that the state had lost out on $170 million in recurrent funding by virtue of the freeze which the Treasurer was at liberty to introduce at any time.
He said that when the Whitlam Government first introduced the grants, it covered 40 per cent of a council’s needs and would be more than twice what it is now if it remained that way.