Budget snub for local shire, region

By Southern Riverina News

The latest state budget signals ‘‘business as usual’’ operating without much help from the government for Berrigan Shire Council, according to its general manager Rowan Perkins.

Mr Perkins said it was no surprise there was little for the shire, or even the local district, in last Tuesday’s budget.

He also said there was no shock in learning the budget holds $3.9 billion in surplus, most likely to offer pre-election sweeteners closer to next year’s polls.

He said the slashing of grants and subsidies available to local government by $25.3 million only demonstrated the government’s cash splash era had ended.

‘‘I expect some of those cuts will be in changes to the Stronger Country Communities grant scheme, which I believe will go through a community directorate instead of the council,’’ Mr Perkins said.

‘‘We probably assumed the SCC funds were going to run out soon, so it’s a case of just going back to business as usual.

‘‘There is nothing new for council in the budget, and not much for the region in total — but that’s probably not out of the ordinary.

‘‘And as for holding money for election announcements, that’s just how they work.

‘‘They’re not usually kind and generous.’’

One of the largest cuts to council funding highlighted by Local Government NSW is the 18 per cent reduction in funding for libraries.

While in some neighbouring council areas the reduction will prompt a review of the level of services provided at their libraries, Edward River Council included, Mr Perkins said he does not expect the shire’s library facilities to be impacted too much.

‘‘We already get so little,’’ he said.

‘‘It will have an impact, and that is pretty disappointing, but it will be business as usual.’’

Mayor Matt Hannan said he was also disappointed that city spending had taken precedence over supporting regional and rural areas.

He also reinforced the council’s stance that library services would remain unchanged despite the reduction of financial assistance from the government.

‘‘Libraries are an important part of business in the shire, and we will continue to support them,’’ he said.

‘‘Overall we would have liked to have seen more money, but of course we saw more emphasis around the cities.’’