'Don't blame state govt for debt'
STATE Treasurer Andrew Fraser has washed his hands of any responsibility for rising local council debt levels but mayor Mick Kruger said the forced amalgamation had cost millions.
“Local governments’ decisions to raise debt are matters for local government – they’re decisions that they make and mayors and councillors get elected and they can answer to their own ratepayers about the decisions they make,” Mr Fraser said during a visit to the Fraser Coast on Friday.
When asked whether he thought amalgamation had added to their difficulties, Mr Fraser replied: “Not at all.
“If that argument had any weight it would say that places like Brisbane City Council which weren’t touched should have the opposite effect,” he said.
“Debt has risen in Brisbane City Council, rates have increased six per cent last financial year which is commensurate with rate increases locally and Brisbane City Council wasn’t touched.
“The problem with the argument is it’s not true, it’s simplistic and it’s unable to be supported.”
But Fraser Coast mayor Mick Kruger said that when the State Government decide to amalgamate councils, it forgot to fund the costs.
“We’ve had to pick up the tab for what the State Government put on us,” he said.
“Our cost to the council itself, which had to be passed on to ratepayers, was $6.4 million,” he said.
Mr Kruger said the costs included bringing four organisations, systems and information technology into one.
“We have done everything we can to keep the rates to what we can to be reasonable.
“I believe it’ll be towards the end of 2015 before you’ll see any efficiency gains because of what we’ve had to outlay.
“It’s hard on the myself, the councillors and also the executive.”