THE Minister for Local Government, Natalie Hutchins, met with Gippsland mayors and CEOs in Yarram last week, including Cr Bob Newton and CEO Tim Tamlin of South Gippsland.
However, while the Minister received a warm and cordial welcome from the representatives of the Gippsland Local Government Network, she also received some home truths about a looming funding crisis as a result of rate capping and cost shifting.
“It was all pretty good no problems but we did raise a couple of issues with the Minister,” said South Gippsland Mayor Cr Newton.
“They talked about rate capping and while we said we were coping fairly well at this stage, we did point out that it would create problems in the future if they still kept it in.
“We said there would be problems with future financial planning if they retained the cap on rates.”
Cr Newton said South Gippsland also sort to highlight the issue of cost shifting, putting a service in place but then withdrawing funding down the track.
“Library funding is a classic case. They used to pay 75 per cent of the funding and the shires 25 per cent but that’s swapped around now with the government only paying 25 per cent.
“Libraries have become a real hub of activity for the community with their computers, information and other services. They really need to be getting bigger, not smaller, to cope with it.”
Cr Newton said he could also see problems for mobile library services if the state didn’t increase funding.
“We had a good discussion brining up road funding , the review of the Local Government Act and other things but the fact is they don’t see it that they’ve cut funding to local government and that’s a problem,” he said.
The Minister’s office said that while there had been no advice given about the minister’s visit, that wasn’t unusual.
“The Minister has meetings with councillors on a daily basis to talk about what the councils are doing and what’s coming up. If there was going to be some sort of specific announcement, we would provide some advice of that.”
He also said the Minister welcomed public submissions to the review of the Local Government Act presently underway.
The review, which responds to calls from the local government sector and the community for reform, is also “examining the role and functions of councillors and CEOs, modernising council business operations, embedding sound financial management and strengthening how complaints are handled”.
Submissions can be received until September 16, 2016.