Local government bodies have been told their pensioner concessions payment from the state government have been included in the latest budget – and fears councils would have to stump up any shortfalls have been allayed.
Nationals MP Adam Marshall confirmed late yesterday that the budget included $107 million to cover pensioner concession rebates – a protection covering harsh cuts from the federal government only weeks ago.
Those commonwealth cuts brought an end to a partnership deal brokered 20 years ago where the federal government provided money to the state government to underwrite the scheme.
Under the state-local government deal that came out of that, 55 per cent of the concession funding comes from the state, while councils have to provide 45 per cent of the total.
It provides a safety net subsidy for pensioners and the elderly on their council rates and other payments.
In the Tamworth Regional Council area, for instance, it covered about 4700 properties a couple of years ago and the rates rebates were worth about $1.8 million. Councils have long argued that the deal has progressively put more pressure on their budgetary position each year, much more than on the two other tiers of government.
Mr Marshall said the state deal would be welcomed by councils – but state MPs would continue to lobby to have the federal deal restored.
He said about 18,000 people over 60 benefitted from various concessions in his electorate.
He said the Baird government’s additional contribution to concessions for 2014-15 would go towards discounted public transport fares, cheaper energy and water bills, council rates and vehicle registration.
NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance said that the National Partnership agreement was axed without
consultation in the federal budget, resulting in $450 million over four years being withdrawn for pensioner and senior concessions from July 1 this year.
In the TRC area, rebates are available for eligible pensioners of up to 50 per cent on their general, water and sewerage rates to certain ceiling amounts.