The West

Councils will have to raise rates to bankroll the cost of local government reform, the State's peak local government body has warned, as it dismissed a $60 million funding package as a "slap in the face".

The State Budget included a $60 million provision for the cost of halving the number of metropolitan councils but just $15 million worth of grants are on offer over three years, with the bulk to be funded through up to $45 million in subsidised loans.

WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said the lobby group was "deeply concerned" at what he described as a token allocation of $5 million in grants for 2014-15.

"It won't fund one merger, let alone the dozen or so required to meet the Government's agenda," he said. "We reject any offer of loans.

"(The) State Budget announcement is a slap in the face for many local governments who have participated in good faith in the State Government's reform agenda for more than five years.

"Local governments are already under significant strain due to the organisational impact of reform. This decision will place further burdens upon administrations.

"The only option for councils to meet the cost of reform is to hike up their rates, which will make it even more difficult for the State Government to convince ratepayers on the benefits of reform."

In its Budget submission, WALGA put the cost of reform at between $65 million and $100 million.

Kate Emery

The West Australian

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