The President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Mayor Troy Pickard, has welcomed the announcement in tonight's Budget that the Australian Government will meet its commitment to double the funding for the Roads to Recovery programme and provide additional Black Spots funding in 2015-16. An extra $350 million in Roads to Recovery funding will be provided to councils in the coming year and Black Spots funding will be increased from $60 million to $160 million in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.
"Local Government is responsible for around 80% of the nation’s roads by length and while investment in major transport infrastructure is important, we cannot afford to forget that almost every journey begins and ends on local roads,” said Mayor Pickard. “The doubling of Roads to Recovery is an important boost to all Councils who need help maintaining the first and last miles of our transport network, on which the nation relies to move goods and people.”
The Budget also included the continuation of funding for regional and remote aerodromes under the Regional Aviation Access Programme with an extra $40 million to upgrade airstrips and boost air services for remote communities.
The additional funding is an important contribution to the substantial investment in local infrastructure which is needed in the face of declining investment as the mining boom winds down. Unfortunately, however, the extra funding is provided against the backdrop of a continuing decline in local government’s core funding because of the ongoing freeze in the indexation of the Financial Assistance Grants.
The Budget indicates that the Government will restore the indexation of the grants in 2017-18 but the freeze in indexation has already reduced grants to councils by an estimated $96 million in 2014-15 and an additional $200 million will be foregone in the coming year. A further $308 million will be lost from the value of the grants in
2016-17, the final year of the freeze. The Government’s own figures estimate that a total of $925 million will be lost over the Budget out years, leading to a permanent reduction of around 13% to the grants into the future.
"These grants are absolutely essential to local communities as they allow councils to provide a reasonable level of service and infrastructure to local residents. The permanent loss of a substantial proportion of the grants as a result of the continued freeze on indexation will be felt in all communities," said Mayor Pickard.
ALGA has called for an end to the freeze on the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants as soon as possible.
Clare Hogan, Director Public Affairs, Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) 0418 415 649