Local Government Minister David Crisafulli.
Local Government Minister David Crisafulli. Lee Constable

Local councils urged to tighten belts due to burgoening debt

REGIONAL councils have been told to rein in their costs and consider sharing resources with neighbouring local governments as their cumulative debt heads towards $11 billion.

The message was one of frugality at the Local Government Association of Queensland annual conference on Tuesday where delegates were told council debt had already trebled from $1.8 billion to $5.3 billion in the past four years.

With this figure in mind, Local Government Minister David Crisafulli asked mayors and councillors at the Brisbane conference to find ways of being "more cutting-edge with service delivery" including sharing resources with neighbouring councils.

"I talk about things like pooling resources and it's never politically easy but there are huge efficiencies that can be made if a local government shares with their neighbouring shire," he said.

"It simply has to be done when there is an opportunity for a saving; you owe it to your communities."

Mr Crisafulli pointed to efficiencies like rural councils leasing land for agriculture and city councils teaming with the private sector.

LGAQ president Paul Bell attributed the crippling debt to state-imposed infrastructure charges, which were capped at $28,000.

"Put simply, the sums don't add up. Big councils are looking down the barrel of massive crippling debts if the system doesn't change," he said.

"Someone has to pay for the costly infrastructure associated with new development and for the last five years that someone has been ratepayers. Debt and rates have risen accordingly."

Cr Bell said the State Government needed to act now on addressing infrastructure charges or risk councils reducing spending on capital projects.

Deputy Premier and State Development, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Jeff Seeney told an urban development lunch in Brisbane on Tuesday a new approach to infrastructure charges was a priority.

"Capping provides no incentives for local governments to properly plan for infrastructure and I understand some councils have just lifted their rates to the maximum without having to justify the amounts charged," he said.

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