Planning failure hurts councils

28/01/2009 - 22:00

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LOCAL engineering firms were bombarded with calls from underprepared local councils at the end of last year seeking assistance in applying for the federal government's infrastructure handouts.

Planning failure hurts councils

LOCAL engineering firms were bombarded with calls from underprepared local councils at the end of last year seeking assistance in applying for the federal government's infrastructure handouts.

In November, the federal government announced almost $30 million of funding for 139 Western Australian local governments as part of the $300 million community infrastructure stimulus package to help communities respond to the global financial crisis.

Part of this $300 million included a competitive $50 million fund for projects seeking $2 million or more, with preference given to those projects that could start immediately to stimulate economic development.

However, local councils were only given 35 days to submit applications for this funding, with applications closing on December 23.

This meant that the majority of WA's local councils had little or no time to prepare an adequate application seeking funds for local projects.

Association of Consulting Engin-eers Australia (WA) division chairman David Porter was disappointed with the short timeframe and the lack of planning from the local governments.

"We thought we would pick up more work out of these public infrastructure projects," Mr Porter told the WA Business News roundtable.

"But the way they've been thrown out ... they [local councils] have no time.

"So they come to us and say 'can you drop what you're doing, develop all of this stuff so we can put in and justify our spending program?'

"And we go 'you've got to be kidding me, haven't you done any legwork?'"

Mr Porter said despite this funding carrot, not many local councils were able to bring forward future plans and utilise the money simply because they hadn't made the plans yet.

"Because we've come off a very buoyant time and they've been dealing with priority projects, things that were next off the rank aren't developed to the extent that they should be," he said.

But Mr Porter doesn't blame the local councils directly for this lack of preparation, but instead his focus is on the state government.

"The gist of the letters our association wrote to the premier and treasurer, to which we haven't had a response yet, say 'don't make the mistake of stopping the planning'," he said.

"That way if there are opportunities, like federal funding or if the market picks up, you can respond straight away."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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