ALBURY mayor Kevin Mack has lashed out at an open letter from Warren Truss to Australia’s mayors about the budget, calling it “absurd”.
The Deputy Prime Minister penned the letter ahead of the Australian Local Government Association’s National General Assembly in Canberra later this month.
The federal government can expect heated discussion at the meeting from Border and North East mayors who have mostly reacted with frustration at cuts to council budgets.
Cr Mack took most issue with Mr Truss’ assertion the Local Government Financial Assistance Grant indexation pause would be offset by infrastructure and roads funding.
“That is a load of garbage,” he said.
“I don’t understand how it will offset the indexation pause when you have to have specific projects relating to that funding and there’s a high application process.
“The government needs to be financially responsible and make cuts across all departments, (but) I believe regional Australia is being held to ransom.”
Cr Mack said the council stood to lose $1.7 million over three years.
To Mr Truss’ words “I trust that this information is of assistance”, he said, “I trust you’re trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes”.
Wodonga mayor Rod Wangman was more tight-lipped, saying there was no point commenting until the budget passed through the Senate.
But he was concerned about the reduction in local government funding and potential cuts to programs such as the Healthy Together Project.
Cr Wangman said he planned to lobby for funding for road and freight safety, the Logic centre and the city’s central business area when he attends the meeting.
Both councillors said they would discuss the joint issues of funding for a new hospital and how best to wind up the Albury-Wodonga Corporation.
Greater Hume mayor Heather Wilton said she wouldn’t go to the Canberra meeting, believing it would be a waste of time.
She said Mr Truss’ letter was “frustrating”, with councils no longer able to chose the direction of road funding that would also be more difficult to obtain.
“What government in Canberra would know about any local roads in Australia,” she said.
Cr Wilton said the council found the indexation pause “abhorrent” and that it would make an almost million-dollar hole in its already established budget.
Indigo mayor Bernard Gaffney said his council would lose $1.76 million.
“The Deputy Prime Minister says everyone has to play a part, but these cuts will hurt rural communities the most,” he said.
“How can we provide services, such as meals on wheels, with this reduction to service grants?”