Queensland’s Auditor-General has warned that almost one-third of Queensland councils risk becoming unsustainable … but the South Burnett is currently ranked as low-risk (Photo: Boris Dzhingarov)

April 23, 2021

The South Burnett Regional Council is at low risk of becoming unsustainable according to Queensland Auditor-General Brendan Worrall.

In its annual audit of Council finances, the Queensland Audit Office found that 25 of the State’s 77 councils – almost one third – were at risk of becoming financially unsustainable in future.

This was four more than the previous year.

The report also found that during 2020, 70 per cent of Queensland councils spent more than they earned, a 25 per cent increase 2019.

However, the Audit Office noted this increase in spending was not unexpected and was largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel restrictions, community lockdowns and initiatives to support their communities through the pandemic meant many councils earned less revenue and ran up higher expenses than would normally be the case.

The Audit Office noted that most councils with a high reliance on state and federal government grants (generally rural, regional and Indigenous councils) have consistently incurred operating losses over the last five years.

This made medium- to long-term planning for financial sustainability a challenge because the current funding model provided grants largely on a year-by-year basis.

The Audit Office suggested multi-year grant programs could assist councils by providing greater funding certainty.

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This year, in addition to its annual report on Council finances, the Audit Office website also provided an interactive dashboard that allows the public to examine their council’s key financial performance indicators over the past three years (2018, 2019 and 2020).

southburnett.com.au used this dashboard to examine the performance of the South Burnett Regional Council and its neighbours.

The data shows the risk of the South Burnett Regional Council becoming unsustainable was low in 2018, and this remained unchanged in 2019 and 2020.

This is the same rating as neighbouring Somerset and Western Downs councils.

However, both Toowoomba and Gympie councils are now rated as being at moderate risk of becoming unsustainable, while the North Burnett and Cherbourg are rated as high risk.

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