Ms WOOLDRIDGE (Eastern Metropolitan) — My constituency question is for the Minister for Local Government in the other place and relates to the halving of the Growing Suburbs Fund in this year's budget. I ask: why has the government slashed $25 million per year to 10 outer suburban councils for community-based projects? These communities, which include Nillumbik Shire Council, have received $50 million a year in the first two Andrews government budgets for parks, playgrounds, sporting facilities and community centres, and this is now a 50 percent reduction. Councils are trying to do the right thing. The government has imposed rate caps, and the fund was to assist councils in times of limited rate rises. This is a slap in the face for councils when they are trying to do the right thing.
It is interesting to note that rate rises in Nillumbik have been condemned by residents in the past, but now after making efficiencies and careful planning, the shire under the leadership and the mayoralty of Peter Clarke is actually producing a budget with no rate rise — zero per cent. This achievement is a first in the shire's history. Council is also looking to repay all of its $13.8 million debt over the next four years while making significant investments, yet what is this government doing in response? It is cutting vital funding for community projects that flies in the face of the good work at local levels. Word is the minister was rolled in cabinet.