Councils spend $20 per person

Ballina senior citizens (from left) Jean Buttemshaw, Cecil Gouling and Gay Topham now have a new covered parking area to protect their mobility scooters, thanks to council spending.
Ballina senior citizens (from left) Jean Buttemshaw, Cecil Gouling and Gay Topham now have a new covered parking area to protect their mobility scooters, thanks to council spending. Jay Cronan
BALLINA Shire Council is one of just 29 local governments across the State that spends less than $20 per person each year on community services, official figures reveal.

While spending increased from a tiny $3.50 per head in 2005-06 to $19.42 two years later, it was still well below the State average of $59.

Community services spending, detailed in the latest comparative local government data, includes council funding for education, family day care, child care, youth services, the aged and disabled, migrant services, and Aboriginal services.

However, the poor rating has been challenged by Ballina mayor Phillip Silver, and even some of the shire’s community groups.

“I think that Ballina council, in terms of the resources it has available to it in terms of its rate levels, isn’t doing a bad job,” Lennox Head Residents’ Association president Fred Goodman said.

Cr Silver questioned the definition of community services used in the figures, and pointed to a number of community service commitments over the past few years.

“We run a very lean council because of our low rates,” Cr Silver said.

“Notwithstanding that, we have in the last two or three years been able to provide a community art gallery, the community services care centre and we are just about to start work on a community centre at Lennox Head.”

The Ballina Senior Citizens Club gives its local council a glowing review.

“They are wonderful to us,” club president Cath Butler said.

However, Ballina District Community Services Association executive officer Dianna Howell is less impressed with the council’s record.

“I’ve worked in other areas and found councils a lot more supportive than Ballina,” she said.

“We’d do so much better in the Ballina area if we had a council that worked with us.”

Ms Howell said the prevailing attitude was that community services were the responsibility of State and Federal governments, but she thought the council could attract a lot more funding to the area if it were more dedicated.

“If you have a strong local community, you can attract more funding from State and Federal governments,” she said.

While Kyogle Council spent less than Ballina – just $10.32 per capita in 2007-08 on community services – it has one-quarter of Ballina’s population and covers an area seven times larger.

Lismore managed $39.11 per person, while Byron boasted $79.85 on each of its residents and Richmond Valley $80.46.

Much of Byron’s funding went to the Sandhills Early Childhood Centre, as well as before and after school care and holiday programs.

Lismore also spent the biggest chunk of its community services money on child care and the smallest amount on the aged and disabled.

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