The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s endorsement of the key role councils are playing in creating jobs and supporting local communities by leading a locally led economic recovery from the COVID pandemic.
ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said the key measures outlined in last night’s Federal Budget, including a $1 billion investment in local government community infrastructure and road projects, via the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) Program, will enable local governments to ramp up their locally led economic development work, creating more jobs and enhancing community wellbeing for the public good.
“Local government capacity to create jobs and support Australians during the pandemic has been on display since last March when we put measures in place to protect and support our most vulnerable residents from the pandemic while rolling out shovel-ready infrastructure projects to cushion local economies,” Cr Scott said.
“The Australian Government’s decision to boost investment in council-led infrastructure, roads and transport shows they have listened and responded to ALGA’s advocacy, and that they value the work that Local Government has undertaken over the past 15 months – on its own and as a preferred partner with the Commonwealth,” she said.
Communities are also increasingly demanding local government action to address dangerous climate change, and Cr Scott said the sector was heartened by Budget measures establishing a new national recovery and resilience agency, with $600 million to invest in disaster preparation and mitigation.
This funding will support resilience projects across communities, including building flood levies, hardening telecommunication infrastructure, and building more bushfire and cyclone-proof buildings.
“One dollar spent on mitigation can save at least $2 in recovery costs. Councils will continue advocating for the creation of more Federal Government funding for local action to address climate change, and a disaster mitigation fund of $200 million a year over four years,” Cr Scott said.
Cr Scott commended the Government for allocating $250 million in new Budget funding for Building Better Regions (BBRF). This is $50 million more than previous allocations, and the largest funding commitment to councils to date.
“Our communities understand that while the Commonwealth brings a much-needed national perspective to economic recovery, support and stimulus measures must be tailored to meet the unique circumstances of each place and each community.
“Councils have the capacity and the local knowledge to deliver the place-based solutions that communities expect,” Cr Scott said.
The Budget announcement that $1.3 billion of Financial Assistance Grants will be prepaid is also welcome news for the many councils now facing budget shortfalls as a result of going above and beyond for their communities over the past 15 months.
“While we welcome the Commonwealth Government’s decision to bring forward its Financial Assistance Grants, local governments need to see significant increases in this untied funding to boost locally led jobs growth in Australia,” Cr Scott said.
“We will continue to strongly advocate for a return of Financial Assistance Grants to 1 percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue, in order to support local governments and our communities,” she added.