Abbott Government cuts utility bill help for seniors

STATE and territory governments are being urged not to change senior's concessions on water, electricity, council rates and public transport, after the Abbott government cut its contributions.

The biggest lobby group for older Australians, Nationals Seniors, has called on the states - which are preparing to release their budgets in the next few weeks - not to cut concessions.

Among the first of the state governments to release its budget - grappling with a national $80 billion cut to schools and hospital funding - will be Queensland next week, followed by New South Wales later this month.

It follows the Federal Government cut to its contribution to the national partnership agreement on seniors and pensioners' concessions - about 10% of the money spent by government on discounts for seniors.

National Seniors chief executive Michael O'Neill said the group had already written to Premiers and Chief Ministers urging them to keep concessions.

"We are extremely concerned about the impacts that the potential abandonment of concessions for electricity, water, public transport and council rates may have on older Australians," he said.

"A single person in receipt of the full age pension receives $842.80 a fortnight, amounting to a little over $21,000 per annum.

"The loss of concessions ranging across the country from between $1163 to $2564 per year will be a significant hit to those low income earners who already find frugal ways to live."

The call to keep the concessions also follows the Abbott government's cut of about $1 billion from financial assistance grants, a change expected to push up council rates over the next four years.

That change, the Australian Local Government Association wrote in its weekly newsletter, has already added to a "growing tide of discontent" within local councils across the nation.

The association, preparing for its national conference in two weeks, raised concerns the cost-shifting exercise would have to cut services, raise rates or "find efficiencies" to meet the growing cost of infrastructure and maintenance with less money.

"The decision to freeze the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants in particular has sent many councils back to review their own budgets to assess local spending on services and infrastructure," the newsletter reads.

"The Senate (estimates) hearings confirmed that the Government has no clear picture of the impact of the cut to Financial Assistance Grants on councils."



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