Ballarat City Council asset cuts opposed

Ballarat Town Hall. Picture: Kate Healy
Ballarat Town Hall. Picture: Kate Healy

Ratepayers have accused Ballarat City Council of neglecting its assets in favour of big spending sport and tourism events.

The Ballarat Resident and Ratepayers Association will make a submission to council’s Wednesday night meeting that supports changes to the 2017-21 draft strategic plan.

Council’s strategic plan outlines up to a 50 per cent cut in asset renewal spending, which includes maintaining infrastructure.

It will drop asset renewal spending from 136 per cent to 67 per cent over four years.

Ballarat Residents and Ratepayers Association secretary John Barnes said some councillors would be abandoning their election commitments if they did not reverse the worrying drop in funding.

“What they are doing is proposing to cut asset spending in half – so they won’t be spending enough to maintain our roads, our parklands or our footpaths,” he said.

“They are simply saying we didn't get the rate increase we deserve, so rather than cut the budget or find ways of generating extra revenue, they will simply not fund the maintenance of assets.

“Collectively they are worth about $1.6 billion, and that is what we as the public own, and council have an obligation to pay that

The state government capped rate rises at two percent, meaning council has to find other measures to raise revenue, or other areas to cut costs if it wants to increase spending.

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said councillors had not made a decision on the draft budget and strategic plan and would remain open minded until Wednesday night’s vote.

“Assets are a very important part of who we are as a community, but so are economic opportunities, these are the challenges every council has to deal with,” she said.

“There are some big challenges for our council, yes we are looking at a two per cent rate cap, we haven’t sought the rate variation so we need to work out how we can spend what we want.”

Mr Barnes said the association also questioned the $5 million pay out to the North Ballarat Football Club, despite rate capping.

“When they say they are going to live within the rate cap, it really implies they need to come up with a way of ensuring a sustainable maintenance of our assets,” he said.

“As part of the council plan they say, built and natural assets need to be maintained - you can probably go for a year or two where you don’t spend a whole amount, but you cannot have that as a 20 year strategy.”

Council will hear responses to its draft budget and strategic plans at its meeting before councillors vote on them.