Federal budget changes are likely to flow through to local services, with a proposal to freeze some grants likely to deprive Blue Mountains Council of $1 million in income over four years.
The freeze means that the annual federal government grant funding will not be increased in line with CPI and population increases, as it has been in the past.
The bottom line for council in the first year, 2014/2015, is it will miss out on an expected $267,000 that has already been included in its budget.
The grant is used to maintain a wide range of infrastructure including local roads, bridges, recreation facilities, libraries, cultural facilities and to deliver a variety of other services to the community.
The issue was to be debated at council’s meeting last night. The mayor, Mark Greenhill, told the Gazette that the effects of the budget were “as far- reaching as they are surprising. So many parts of our community fabric are impacted.”
The council was to vote on a proposal from the mayor to write to the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, Macquarie MP Louise Markus and Senator Doug Cameron about the potentially severe impacts of the funding freeze.
The mayor warned that council would need to reconsider its spending priorities to take into account the shortfall.
Council was also going to discuss a mayoral minute expressing concern at the impact of changes to the Newstart allowance, particularly that young people will have to wait for six months to receive the payment.
Clr Greenhill said it could mean people with literally no benefits at all for six months.
“So a young parent loses their job through no fault of their own. What do they do? What do their kids do? Do they end up on the street? You can’t live on fresh air,” he said.
“This makes no sense. In the US you see families living in the streets. Is that what we want here? No we don’t. It is just cruel and needs to change.”
He said whether it was the grants or Newstart, council had to be a “voice for the community, in particular the most vulnerable”.