A war of words has erupted between country mayors and the local government minister over budgeted increases in the emergency services levy.
Answering a question on the challenges faced by local governments in question time, local government minister Ron Hoenig slammed councils for asking for concessions.
"Local government needs to face its own expenditure issues before it comes bleating to the state government and asking for an allocation of funds when it is itself facing a $180 billion deficit," he said.
"When I see mayors this week, I am going to have their audit reports sitting in front of me.
"I am going to ask them about their financial accountability and their expenditure before they start asking the state to pay for the fire trucks going down their street, which they are responsible for paying for."
Mr Hoenig's comments came after country mayors expressed concern about the government's decision to end a subsidy on the levy which funds agencies like the Rural Fire Service and the SES.
Narromine council mayor Craig Davies slammed the minister's response as "arrogant".
"I've made it my business to meet with many new Ministers and highlight the challenges that rural Mayors face on a regular basis. I have been received warmly and listened to intently," he said.
"I have formed a very positive view of all of them. But to hear the rant of Minister Hoenig is to listen to the voice of arrogance."
The hike to the levy - after budgets for the 2023 to 2024 financial year had already been set - will see the Narromine Shire Council paying $196,000 more. The Dubbo Regional Council's contribution will increase by $616,666.
Mr Hoenig said paying the levy was council's responsibility and ruled out the possibility of rate rises being put back on the table.
"Mayors from a variety of councils have been coming to see me and writing to me, talking about the financial sustainability of local government," Mr Hoenig said.
"I point out to them that financial sustainability is not about rate increases; it is about getting their own finances in order. It is about monitoring their own finances and making sure that they are accountable for their own expenses.
"They are very good at putting their hand out and taking a 3.5 per cent increase from the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal [...] when we are putting through legislation to freeze our own salaries and that of senior public servants."
But Cr Davies said the minister's comments risked damaging relationships between councils and the state government.
"My annual stipend for working an average of 50 to 60 hours per week is $37,000. Minister Hoenig is paid $315,000 per annum and he has the hide to deny Mayors a fair and reasonable stipend when our Queensland counterparts are paid $108,000," he said.
"He's unworthy of his very privileged position and will damage this government and relations between Local Government and the Ministers. What a shame."
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