Federal grant freeze forces Greater Taree council rethink

GREATER Taree City Council has been forced to begin work on an action plan to fill "a financial gap created by the indexation freeze" on Federal Assistance Grants (FAGs).

Council's general manager, Gerard Jose said "councillors will have some difficult decisions ahead of them in the current term and into the next" as they work to manage the flow on effect of the federal government decision to freeze FAGs indexation for three years from July 1.

It is expected the move will achieve savings for the federal government of $925.2 million over four years.

The impact of the decision on Greater Taree City Council is a minimum of $450,000, according to Mr Jose , and he said the "flow-on effect will likely be in service levels".

On receiving the news, mayor Paul Hogan wrote to the federal member for Lyne, David Gillespie, and implored him to advocate on behalf of "our shared constituents, because it is the communities of the Manning that will suffer in the end."

Mayor Hogan said he was "confident that the positive rapport and shared concern that he and Dr Gillespie have for the area will prevail".

"Dr Gillespie knows me well, he knows that when he goes in to battle for this community, I'll be right there behind him," Cr Hogan said.

Council's executive leader corporate support, Laura Black said council's "intention is to be strategic, to have a game plan and to stick to it."

Senior staff met with the financial and investment advisory committee of council last week and then the councillors to discuss strategy.

"The hard work and big decisions are not over and we are still faced with the significance of our infrastructure backlog. We acknowledge that it's impossible for us, or any local government authority to overcome this backlog, but we don't want to add to it unnecessarily and we don't want to add this latest funding blow to our deficit either," Ms Black explained.

She said that over the next 12 months significant must work be undertaken to ensure mitigation and no reduction in council's focus on infrastructure.

A 12-month action plan for 2014-15 is currently being prepared that includes investigating a special rate variation (SRV) focused on infrastructure maintenance and capital construction.

"Strategy over reactivity is supported 100 per cent by our councillors," Ms Black said.

"If we are to go to the community requesting support for an infrastructure SRV or changed service profiles and we are asking our elected members to make difficult decisions about these things, those decisions need to be informed."