Streetlights to cost more to run

Kate Emery
Cost pressure: The streetlight tariff is going up. Picture: Supplied

The cost of turning on Perth's streetlights is set to soar, prompting concerns councils may raise rates or scale back their use to offset the price rise.

Perth councils say they have been blindsided by plans to lift the streetlight tariff by as much as 37 per cent in a move expected to add about $15 million to the $40 million WA's local government spends on streetlights every year.

Coming on top of an increase in the landfill levy and revelations councils have to cover most of the cost of local government reform, the sector's peak lobby group says it cannot absorb the extra cost.

The streetlight tariff will rise 5 per cent in 2014-15 and is forecast to rise a further 36.8 per cent in 2015-16 and 8.2 per cent in 2016-17, according to State Budget papers.

WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said communities did not want to see streetlights switched off because of concerns about safety and crime.

"The community have demonstrated in the past that they do not want a reduction in streetlighting but it is also inappropriate to expect communities to pay more than what is a fair market price," he said. "Each council will make their own decisions about how they handle the increase in costs.

"However, councils have three options in redressing unexpected demands on finances - increasing rates, reducing services or selling assets - all of which have a negative impact on the community."

Mr Pickard is lobbying the State Government to make streetlighting contestable to boost competition.

Energy Minister Mike Nahan said the streetlight tariff did not currently reflect Synergy's cost of supply.

He said the 5 per cent increase to the tariff for 2014-15 "balances concern for the impact on local councils and affected ratepayers with a need to reflect an increase in Synergy's cost of supply".

"However, the tariff in 2014-15 will be below Synergy's cost of supply," Mr Nahan said. "Synergy expects to subsidise $11 million during 2014-15 as a result of streetlight tariffs being below cost reflective levels.

"The Budget assumes streetlight tariffs will be fully cost-reflective in 2015-16.

"However, the Budget forecast does not reflect a final decision by Government regarding streetlight tariffs."

Town of Claremont mayor Jock Barker said the increase in the tariff was "just one more cost pressure pushed up or palmed off on to local government by the State Government".

However, he said the council would not consider turning off streetlights.