Ley to Mack: Suck it up

Farrer MP Sussan Ley
Farrer MP Sussan Ley

FARRER federal MP Sussan Ley has told councils they will just have to cop a cut in funding.

That was in response to concerns raised by Albury mayor Kevin Mack about an open letter from Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss concerning the federal budget.

Cr Mack described the letter from Mr Truss as “absurd”, pointing to the city losing $1.7 million over three years.

He was especially annoyed at what he said was an assertion from Mr Truss that the Local Government Financial Assistance Grant indexation pause would be offset by infrastructure and roads funding.

But Ms Ley said the government was not suggesting the pause would be offset.

“But the letter did make the point there is an extra $350 million of infrastructure and roads funding in the second year of this pause,” the member for Farrer said.

Ms Ley said she wholeheartedly endorsed Mr Truss’ letter.

“It explained the situation as it is and the cold, hard reality of the government’s budgetary position,” she said.

Ms Ley said that position was the government’s $47 billion deficit this financial year, projected to grow to $127 billion by 2017.

“Against that background, the Deputy Prime Minister is saying we are freezing — not cutting — tax grants indexation for three years,” she said.

“But I am sympathetic and I understand the mayors’ frustration and I know this is difficult.”

Wodonga mayor Rod Wangman expressed his concern about a cut in local government funding, while Greater Hume mayor Heather Wilton said the indexation pause was “abhorrent”.

It would, she said, create an almost $1 million hole in Greater Hume’s budget.

Ms Ley said she was happy to meet councils, including Albury, to discuss the issue.

“But it’s probably not my role to tell them how they might manage the savings they’ve determined they have to make,” she said.

“I understand they will have to go through that exercise in-house to make savings in the same way that the government is going through.

“I as a minister have made savings in my own portfolio.

“We have been upfront in asking organisations and households ... to contribute to repairing the budget.”

Ms Ley said the comments from Cr Mack were “not necessarily” the response of all councils in her electorate.

She said the asset sales process announced in the budget would trigger $125 billion in construction across Australia.