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Price rises hit hard

Thursday, 16th June, 2011

By Gayle Hogan 

Around 10 per cent of the city's residents sought financial help to pay their bills in the last year.

And that number is expected to rise because prices keep going up.

Electricity price hikes of up to 18.1 per annum will come into effect next month and St Vincent de Paul Society Regional President Phil Sky said the charity will see a greater demand for financial assistance as a result.

"There'll be more people calling on us, you would imagine," he said.

In the nine months from July 2010 to March, 2,322 people in the local district sought assistance from the charity and Mr Sky said most of them were from Broken Hill.

In that period, the local St Vinnie's provided $72,000 worth of State Government funded electricity assistance (EPA) vouchers, $24,329 worth of food hampers, $27,300 to pay rent and gas bills and $7,531 for household goods.

The charity also saw a 7.2 per cent rise in total assistance given from the October/December quarter to the January/March quarter.

Mr Sky said rising food costs, rent and electricity price hikes had led to more people seeking help, especially those on pensions and low incomes.

"People on the lower end of the spectrum are finding it very hard to manage," he said.

The St Vincent de Paul Society relies on government assistance and donations from members of the public and service clubs.

It recently launched its winter appeal: "Help someone see a better future - Vinnie's changes lives every day."

Mr Sky urged locals to support the appeal. Donations may be sent or dropped into the charity at 97 Argent Street. Receipts for tax purposes are available.

"All local money is spent locally," Mr Sky said.

"We're relying on the generosity of the public of Broken Hill."

Anyone needing financial help from St Vincent de Paul must attend the centre for an interview.

Mayor Wincen Cuy said while Council rates were capped at an increase of 2.9 per cent this year, some projects may miss out because of the budget allowances for electricity.

"We as Council have to absorb the electricity hike and are not able to pass it on to the ratepayers of Broken Hill."

In April, Council's General Manager Frank Zaknich said electricity cost $600,000 last financial year and had already cost $785,000 this financial year. 

The yearly bill is now expected to rise by as much as $200,000.

"It's not going to be any easier in terms of balancing the budget and providing services," Mr Zaknich said.

"All that will impact on the budget quite significantly.

"It means we've got to be more energy efficient as much as possible."

Council said street lights and facility lighting accounted for a large portion of electricity use.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) this week released its final decision on power prices for 2011/2012 and warned there would be more increases in the next financial year.

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