Clarence Valley Council a cost-shifting victim

COST shifting isn't a new thing, but it has been cited as one of the main reasons the Clarence Valley Council is financially unstable based on current income.

According to Clarence Conversations, a new website designed to allow ratepayers to have their say on a proposed rate rise of 8% each year for five years, cost shifting from the State and Federal governments to the council was in the 2013-14 financial year estimated to have cost the Clarence Valley Council more than $7 million.

Services that have been transferred to local government in recent years include contributions to the Rural Fire Service, State Emergency Service and Fire and Rescue NSW, net public library costs, the net pensioner rate rebate, noxious weeds control and a waste levy costing $1.6 million.

Clarence Valley councillor Craig Howe said while cost shifting was in no way a new phenomenon, or the only contributing factor to the council's financial instability, he could not see the burden it creates easing anytime soon.

"I don't know if it's getting worse but it's certainly not stopping," he said.

"Mostly, it comes from the State Government; they're trying to balance their budgets and that's one way of doing it. Is it a necessary evil? Well, I guess if they didn't do it someone's got to be slugged for it somewhere and politically, it looks better for them if it comes from a council."

Cr Howe said most costs shifted from state to council costs were important services councillors could not say no to, despite the fact no new money comes from cost shifting.

"If we can't take on those things, they don't happen," he said.

"We don't really have the luxury of saying no."

The Clarence Valley Council already maintains more than 2068 kilometres of roads, and once the new highway is built the upkeep of the old Pacific Hwy could also fall to the council, depending on its classification.

"Technically that's not cost shifting, but we don't have a choice," Cr Howe said.

"We're not even close to keeping up with the costs of roads. That is really one of the big reasons why we're looking at a special rate duration."

Ratepayers can provide feedback on the proposed 8% rate hike via a printed or online survey, available at, email, write to Locked Bag 23, Grafton.

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