TSC rejects 'worst council' tag
CLAIMS that Tweed Shire Council is one of NSW's worst 10 council's for long-term financial sustain-%ability have been rejected by senior council finance staff. The independent financial %analyst group Fiscal Star claimed in a report last week that the Tweed was one of the worst-placed local councils in NSW and would need to increase rates by up to 200 per cent in the next 10 years to survive. But the council's Technology and Corporate Services director Troy Green said the figures relied on by Fiscal Star were misleading and did not take into account the fact that councils survived on government grants. "One of the reasons given for stating we are financially unsustainable is because a proportion of council's income is based on grants," Mr Green said. "State and federal government grant income is a fact of life for local government. Tweed annually %receives income for programs such as Roads to Recovery and Black Spot funding, and so on. "To say that an organisation is %unsustainable without these grants is a bit like saying the state government is unsustainable without the GST being passed on from the federal government." Mr Green said the Fiscal Star %report was not comprehensive as it did not take into consideration Tweed's Seven-Year Infrastructure and Services Plan, which does %increase rates. The Fiscal Star report warned that 35 councils are so short of cash they will need to increase rates and charges by 80 to 200 per cent in the next 10 years to survive. It said another 19 "vulnerable" councils in NSW will need to %increase rates and charges by at least 60 to 80 per cent. Without this extra income, the %report warned the councils would have to run down facilities or appeal to federal and state governments to bail them out. Other North Coast councils %however have supported the report which listed Ballina, Richmond %Valley, Tweed and Clarence Valley councils as being in an unsustainable financial position. Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) president and Kyogle mayor Ernie Bennett said that residents in regional areas could not afford big rate rises and further government help was needed. Cr Bennett said that in Kyogle% Shire alone a large amount of funding was needed to repair timber bridges. "Fifty million dollars is something we couldn't collect from our ratepayers over the next decade, and our community can't afford any more rates," Cr Bennett said.