23 September, 2022
Reduced funding for road maintenace
TABLELANDS Regional Council has refused to sign a two-year contract for maintenance of State roads after the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) reduced the funds in the second year of the agreement by 15 per cent.
After some discussion, the council agreed to a 12-month contract for 2022-23 even though the funds available for maintenance remain unchanged from last year despite the rise in costs of materials and labour.
Deputy Mayor Cr Kevin Cardew spoke strongly against signing any agreement with the department, saying he was “getting a little tired of the State Government putting imposts on local government to do certain things for them without much consideration” for the council involved.
“When they do substandard works on the main roads and we have to maintain them, we cop the flak,” he said.
“If they make mistakes, they say, ‘oops sorry’ and move on.
“If we don’t accept this (the contract), I have no dramas with that – I think there’s an opportunity to move the staff that may be impacted by this to other areas of our operational budget.
“The State is dictating terms and if you look at the amount for the following year, it is reduced – all the cost blowouts in materials fuel etc don’t seem to be taken into consideration.”
The DTMR contract for 2022-23 provides for $2.25 million, but for 2023-24, the department wanted the council to sign off on the reduced amount of $1.92 million.
“Officers expressed that a reduction in service on State-controlled roads as a result of maintenance and a future reduction of funding for the Routine Maintenance Performance Contract would not be accepted by council,” a report to council stated.
DTMR had explained that the contract values had not increased from the previous year because of the removal of work related to reseal preparation works from the contract, which had been moved to another program and would be offered to the council under a separate contract.
Infrastructure Services general manager Mark Vis told council DTMR had made it clear that al-locations for this year and next year were fixed.
“They are not going to change,” he said.
He also cautioned council about not signing the contract and redeploying workers to other projects, saying there were impacts to consider, such as consulting with the workforce and relevant unions.
He did not believe that council opting to sign a one-year contract and withholding the second year would lead to a positive change in the funding for the second year.
“Our ability to negotiate a higher amount for the second year is very slim,” Mr Vis said.
Cr Cardew said while he understood all the points put to the meeting, he remained firm council should stand up and be counted on the issue.
“The State is still dictating terms to us and we’re just copping it and until such time as some-body stands up and says ‘no’, it will keep going,” he said.
“We will just continue to take what is given to us by the State – prices are going up, their contract rates are coming down.
“If we take a stand, it might hurt for a while but by golly, if we take a stand, it will be noticed and other councils may make a stand. If you want something changed, you’re got to put your head up to change it.”
Cr David Clifton said he wanted the Mayor and CEO to raise the matter formally through the Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (FNQROC) in a bid to come up with a “collective stance” in relation to the funding.
“The day-to-day reality is that the people who get screwed is the council on the one hand, and the contractors, all local people, on the other – we have to try and screw them down when every in-put they have is subject to the same kind of pressures we’re subject to,” he said.