The City of Swan have been blindsided by a State Government decision to slash vital road maintenance grants in order to recoup costs from a failed measure to remedy the State’s budget black hole.
In January, the then-Liberal State Government announced a plan to strip local governments of licensing and stamp duty concessions, a move that would have cost the City of Swan close to $400,000 a year.
However on June 27, a motion to disallow this amendment to the Road Traffic Act was passed by the legislative council with the support of the Liberal party and other non-Government members.
With the State Government still attempting to fill what they describe as a budget black hole, Transport Minister Rita Saffioti ordered Main Roads to slash direct grants for local roads to the tune of 42 per cent in current financial year, with the total value of direct grants to all local government areas cut from $24.3 million to $14 million.
Ms Saffioti justified the move by saying that local governments should allocate the money earmarked for the removal of licensing and stamp duty concessions to road maintenance.
That justification was too little too late for the City of Swan which adopted its budget on the fifth of July and was well aware the concessions would remain in play.
City of Swan Mayor Mick Wainright said the State Government’s decision would undoubtedly impact the maintenance of the City of Swan’s roads and, ultimately, the rates of City residents.
“When it was announced that concessions to Local Government vehicle licensing would be scrapped, we believe we had recovered a large loss to our budget, and as a result reduced our rates from three per cent to 2.5 per cent,” he said.
“Now, not only will we have to allow for the lower rate increase, but the loss of road maintenance funding as well.
“Reducing the funding this late in the piece will inevitably have an impact on the road maintenance program and annual budget.’’
City acting chief executive officer Jim Coten confirmed the City’s 2017/2018 budget for road maintenance was $3.3 million, and said the cuts would cost the city $250,476.
He also said that had the City known of the cuts prior to adopting their budget, the rates rise may have been different.
“While the loss of vehicle Licensing concessions would have had a bigger financial impact, the road maintenance grant cut will not only affect the budget, but the City’s road maintenance program and may lower current levels of service for some activities.
“Road maintenance is a high priority…reduced expenditure will lower the existing levels of service and create a backlog of works for future years.”
Ms Saffioti said the State Government was spending significant funds in the City of Swan including the upgrade of Lord Street, duplication of Reid Highway and the construction of NorthLink WA.
Kalamunda Mayor Andrew Waddell also confirmed the City would see a reduction in funding to the tune of $110,208 and described the decision as short-sighted.
“Road maintenance ultimately protects lives, it is inconceivable that the government sees this as the place to start its cutbacks,” Mr Waddell said.
“As the budget…has been set, we will look for opportunities to reallocate funding, or some of our road related capital works projects may be deferred until the following financial year.
“Of concern is the fact that the City’s allocation in subsequent years will also be reduced and therefore planned road related capital works projects that are directly depended on direct grant funding may be pushed out further in the forward works program.”
By Liam Ducey