Barry Leddicoat

Councils picking up the federal and state governments’ tabs

QUEENSLAND councils are picking up the Federal and State governments' tabs for hospital and education funding because of cutbacks.

Of 44 councils the Local Government Association of Queensland surveyed, 11 were paying for services traditionally funded by the two other levels of government.

The councils spend $26 million annually on areas not their responsibility, with housing proving the most costly.

Remote councils were often the worst off as the last resort to overcome problems or improve access to health, education and communication services.

South Burnett Regional Council owns a private hospital that costs the council $250,000 annually.

CCTV services provided for public security cost councils $5 million each year.

Some councils fund student hostels, aids for distance education, teachers' salaries and internet WiFi access in areas without 3G services.

LGAQ president Margaret de Wit, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, Treasurer Curtis Pitt and more than 200 senior local government figures gathered in Brisbane on Wednesday to discuss the financial sustainability of councils.

Cr de Wit said one crucial reform was allowing councils guaranteed access to a funding stream from a growth tax.

"The narrowness of the rate base as the major source of local government revenue has always been a concern for us," she said.

"Given that councils are increasingly seen as a provider of last resort for services like education and health that are supposed to be the responsibility of other levels of government, it is vital that local government puts its view on how those services should be paid for in the future."

A comprehensive LGAQ discussion paper detailing council funding also touches on taxation reform.

Mr Pitt said the State Government was committed to ensuring council access to tailored funding and said he understood the importance of skilled workers.



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