BCC will undergo a series of cost-cutting measures to address a forecast budget blowout of approximately $400 million, impacting the already delayed Toowong to West End Green Bridge, which will be paused indefinitely.
Also affected by the cut is the shading of Victoria Bridge, part of the Brisbane Metro project, a stage that’s estimated at $5 million. This significant spending reduction, equating to a 10 per cent reduction in Council expenditure, comes just three months after the 2023-2024 budget was unveiled in June this year.
Rising Costs Prompt Immediate Spending Cuts
The decision to reduce the budget by $400 million aims to tackle soaring construction costs, labour, materials, goods, and services, which have put pressure on Council’s financial resources. This move seeks to keep future rate increases in check and maintain affordability for residents as the city heads into an election year.
Brisbane City Council will implement a range of austerity measures to achieve these savings. For instance, the public art component of the Brisbane Metro project will be delayed. Advertising, travel, consultants, and councillor ward budgets will also be reduced.
However, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner assured that there would be no forced layoffs among permanent Council employees, although contractors may face uncertainty.
Citywide Impact and Concerns
The budget cut will have far-reaching consequences, potentially jeopardising various projects or increasing their costs. The specifics of how these cuts will affect services and projects, including roads and footpaths, have not been disclosed, leading to concerns among opposition parties and residents.
Opposition leader Jared Cassidy criticised the lack of transparency in revealing which projects would be impacted, emphasizing that residents should not have to wait for months to discover how their local services might be affected.
Mr Schrinner defended the budget cut as a necessary corrective action to avoid future rate rises, highlighting the increasing costs faced by the council. He cited rising expenses in areas such as fuel, electricity, bitumen, and construction as key reasons behind the decision. Mr Schrinner maintained that essential services like waste collection, buses, and ferries would remain unaffected.
“Households right across the city are tightening their belts and it’s only fair governments do too,” Mr Schrinner said.
“Today I’m announcing a Council-wide 10% savings drive amid the global inflation and cost-of-living crisis.
“What we’re doing will put downward pressure on future rates compared to the uncontrolled spending we see at other levels of government that will only lead to pain for households.
“This is the kind of responsible decision-making Brisbane residents expect so we can maintain the lowest rates in South East Queensland.”
Future Implications and Challenges
The revised budget is expected to be released by the end of November, just a few months before Brisbane ratepayers go to the polls in March 2024.
Global inflation has played a substantial role in driving up construction costs, causing budget revisions and project delays. Fiona Cunningham, chair for finance in Brisbane civic cabinet, explained that continuing to spend without addressing these rising costs would result in future rate hikes for residents, an outcome the Council is determined to avoid.
“While some proposed projects may be paused, the majority will be delivered on time however council officers will be working hard over coming months to descope and remove unnecessary costs,” Ms Cunningham said.