Australia’s local councils will meet in June and are expected to unite against cuts in the federal budget that will leave them with funding shortages.
The country’s 500-plus local councils are expected to band together against the Abbott government over budget cuts that feel like “a slap across the face with a large wet fish”.
Australian Local Government Association president Felicity-Ann Lewis says more than 800 delegates from 560 local government areas will meet for the group’s national assembly in Canberra in June.
Ms Lewis says mayors have spoken out independently against a three-year freeze to the federal government’s financial assistance grants to local councils.
“I expect coming out of that meeting will be a resolution to really take this up with the government,” Ms Lewis said.
“We’ll certainly be very strident and hopefully we’ll have a motion clearly identifying to them what this will mean to our communities and how disappointed we are.”
Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Greg Hallam said the cuts should force a rethink of how each individual council handles its own budget, given that less money will come in.
“This week’s federal budget was the equivalent of a slap across the face with a large wet fish,” he said.
Ms Lewis said the grant freezes opened a $180,000 black hole in her council, in Marion in South Australia.
She said while cuts at a local level would not be felt as immediately as the states, they were a “slow burn” that could be seen when it came to repairing or upgrading local roads or playgrounds.
The cuts meant councils would need to decide whether they reduced spending or increased rates to make up the shortfall, she said.
State and territory leaders will meet in Sydney in Sunday over the federal budget’s $80 billion cut to health and election funding.