| 13.01,12. 05:39 AM |
Secret council fortune of $635m
January 13, 2012
SYDNEY councils have collected a record slush fund of $653 million from levies on new homes but have broken a promise to spend it on vital infrastructure.
The city's 38 councils raised a record $201 million on levies in the 2010-11 financial year, but spent a record low of $142 million, an audit reveals.
Developers pay the levies up front but the cost - up to $60,000 - is passed on to home buyers on the price of their property.
The fees are supposed to fund amenities and services required as a consequence of development but 23 of the 38 Sydney councils spent less than what they charged.
"Councils consistently cry poor over the lack of infrastructure spending across Sydney but too many are guilty of starving their own communities," Property Council of Australia NSW executive director Glenn Byres said last night.
"The levies are collected on the promise they will be spent on essential infrastructure - which is exactly what councils are failing to do."
In the seventh audit by the PCA, Mr Byres said Sydney's councils had set three new annual records - the highest amount of unspent levies, the most raised and least spent.
"For the third year running, Ku-ring-gai Council is the worst offender, with unspent funds leaping from $56 million to $71 million during the past three years," he said.
Sydney City, which raised $25 million this year, spent less than half and closed the year with $62.9 million.
Liverpool spent 8.8 per cent of its $56.5 million in levies and Blacktown spent 16.8 per cent of a $55 million windfall.
Sutherland, Warringah, Fairfield, Canterbury, Camden, Penrith, Rockdale and Parramatta made the top 10 biggest stockpilers, each one sitting on between $21 million and $34 million.
"There is no good excuse for stockpiling over $650 million in infrastructure levies," Mr Byres said.
"Above all, NSW needs to reform local government by reducing the number of councils in Sydney and in doing so, ensure they are better run."
A Blacktown Council spokeswoman said $45 million would be spent in the next year and Liverpool promised to spend its surplus in the next two years. A Ku-ring-gai Council spokeswoman said the money was only used for new houses and a Sydney Council spokeswoman said it would be spent when the time was right.