SBRC CEO Mark Pitt (Photo: LinkedIn)

July 10, 2024

South Burnett Regional Council CEO Mark Pitt PSM has lashed both the State and Federal Governments over their lack of support for local councils.

Speaking at the special Budget Meeting on Wednesday, Mr Pitt said councillors had been quite clear during the Budget deliberations that cost savings had to be found.

For example, Council’s wages bill had been cut back by just over $3 million and general rates had been kept to a 2 per cent rise.

But about 10:00am on Friday, June 28, Council was informed it would be getting an 85 per cent advance payment of its expected Financial Assistance Grants.

The grants come from the Federal Government but are administered by the State Government.

Last year, the SBRC received a 100 per cent advance payment before the end of the financial year.

“This about the fourth year in a row that they have changed the percentage,” Mr Pitt said.

“And the fourth year in a row that they have changed the timing of this grant.”

He said the grant had to be managed in the year that “it actually lands in the bank account”.

Then on July 2, they found out – when the funds arrived – that the grant had been reduced by $600,600 which had “wiped out” the expected income from the 2 per cent rate rise.

“We actually go backwards,” Mr Pitt said.

“It is grossly unfair to this Council; it is grossly unfair to this community and it’s grossly unfair to every Council in Australia that they moved it out of the financial year.”

Mr Pitt said Council’s deficit for the 2023-24 financial year now stood at around $10 million instead of about $3 million only because of an accounting “stroke of a pen” that the money was not received on Friday (June 28) but was received on Tuesday (July 2).

“We call ourselves a modern western society … and they can’t tell us from one year to the next what local government’s share of the GST (will be), they cannot tell us from one year to the next how much we are going to get, and when they are going to pay it,” he said.

“This has to change. You cannot run a business like this; you cannot run an organisation like this.”

The SBRC has called on the State and Commonwealth governments to review urgently the Financial Assistance Grants methodology to create a “fair and equitable distribution” of funds.

Mr Pitt also pointed out that Council now had to make provision for landfills over 30 years, which had added $1.5 million to Council’s bottom line simply to meet accounting standards.

“It has not actually improved our landfills, it hasn’t changed our landfills, it hasn’t actually assisted us in our landfills,” Mr Pitt said.

If this $1.5 million was taken off the operational deficit, the $3.5 million deficit would instantly become $2 million.

He said people “sitting in offices in Brisbane” were thinking these rules up.


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