Cost shifting survey highlights impact on councils
The NSW Government’s waste levy should be invested in better waste management initiatives, Maitland and Cessnock councils say.
In the 2015/16 financial year the two councils collected approximately $15 million in fees from the levy on behalf of the state government. During that year they were charged $133.10 per tonne of waste received at their facilities.
The waste levy has been highlighted in a report from Local Government NSW (LGNSW), which surveyed the state’s councils to ascertain the impact of state and federal government cost shifting.
Cost shifting is when the responsibility for, or the cost of, providing a service, concession, asset or regulatory function is moved from one level of government to another without the necessary funding. This includes libraries, pensioner rebates and the emergency services levy.
According to the LGNSW report, Cessnock and Maitland were the top two most affected regional councils in the state with 16 per cent (or $11.3 million for Cessnock and $13.9 million for Maitland) of their total income (not including capital income) cost shifted that year.
Including Sydney metro councils, only Ashfield Council (now Inner West) came in higher.
The waste levy was the biggest contributor to those figures. The levy is designed reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill, however the cost of this is borne by ratepayers and dump users.
In 2015/16 the waste levy in Maitland amounted to more than $7 million.
“Cost shifting is certainly an issue of concern for all councils,” Maitland City Council’s General Manager David Evans said.
“For Maitland, as for other councils, the main contributors identified by the LGNSW report are regulatory costs, contributions to emergency services, reduced subsidies over time for library services, the pensioner rebate subsidy for rates paid by pensioners, and the waste levy.
“The levy is a factor in the cost of waste fees, and Council would certainly prefer that the levy was reduced, or a great portion of it returned to Council for new waste management initiatives.”
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said that Council was already involved in conversations around the impact of cost shifting.
“Cost shifting certainly impacts Council’s ability to undertake projects on the ground,” he said.
“Just over $11.3 million could be invested in some fantastic community projects, everything from roads, bridges, parks or libraries.
“We’d certainly notice a difference if we had this additional funding in our budget and our community would notice it also.”
Cessnock City Council has also endorsed the LGNSW Save Our Recycling campaign, which calls on the State Government reinvest the entire waste levy in waste management and recycling. In 2017/18 this totaled $727 million.