“Egregious pork barrelling”: Sydney council ordered to pay back $36 million

“Egregious pork barrelling”: Sydney council ordered to pay back $36 million
Image: Hornsby Shire Council website

An affluent council in Sydney’s north has been ordered to pay back $36 million in what the NSW Government has described as “one of the most egregious examples of pork barrelling”.

In 2018, Hornsby Shire Council was awarded $90 million from the Stronger Communities Fund, $40 million of which was allocated to the Westleigh Park project.

More than $36 million of that project is yet to be spent, and the government has refused the council’s application for an extension.

In a statement, Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig said,  “At a time when we are facing a cost-of-living crisis, every dollar counts.”

“Hornsby Council has had years to utilise this funding and the original deadline written into the grant guidelines has long passed.

“Where councils have not demonstrated sufficient progress on projects that received grant funding, the government will be recouping this money and ensuring it is reinvested where it’s needed most.”
Hornsby Mayor Philip Ruddock said the council was “deeply disappointed by this decision” and that they are “now considering what options are available to us to ensure our community gets the recreational facilities it was promised.”
Ahead of the 2019 state elections, supposedly to support council amalgamations, $252 million from the Stronger Communities Fund was allocated to councils.
However, more than 95 per cent of those funds went to councils in electorates held by the former Coalition government, including those that weren’t part of the merger, like Hornsby.
“The former Liberal-National government’s Stronger Communities Fund has been exposed as one of the most egregious examples of pork barrelling,” Hoenig said.
“The fund was originally established to support councils which had been forcibly merged by the former government, yet Hornsby Shire Council received $90 million despite not being one of the amalgamated councils.”
Inner West Council has welcomed the decision, saying that merged councils like Inner West and Canterbury-Bankstown were prevented from even applying for grants.
Mayor Darcy Byrne said, “It’s good and proper that the Government is clawing back some of this rorted money and the communities who were ripped off should receive some of the benefit.

“In 12 years under the former Government, our community was systematically cut off from state funding. The Liberal and National parties saw public money as their own political slush fund.

“Some of this $36 million should be distributed to communities like ours that have missed out and can help to deliver desperately needed community infrastructure and facilities.”

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