The Australian Local Government Association’s advocacy for a fairer share of Financial Assistance Grants has inspired a council in rural South Australia to publicly thank their local federal Member of Parliament for $500,000 worth of funding in 2019/20.
Kingston District Council wrote to Tony Pasin MP after reading President David O’Loughlin’s September 6 column urging councils to tell their local MPs about the value of the grant to the community, and support their continuation and future increase.
“Kingston District Council, being a small regional Council with a rate revenue of just $3.9m, would not be able to deliver the level of services and infrastructure to its community without the support of the Financial Assistance Grants,” Mayor Kay Rasheed’s letter said.
The letter to the Member for Baker also noted Council received $269,000 in supplementary road funding for South Australia – money which ALGA secured in the 2019-20 Federal Budget and which was one of ALGA’s 2019 Federal Election Initiatives.
The Fairer Share campaign aims to restore Financial Assistance Grants to at least 1 percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue to help councils fund projects and services in their communities that help locals to achieve their full potential.
“Council is committed to delivering a high-quality road network and we know this is particularly important to our rural community,” Mayor Rasheed’s letter said.
Not only did Council need to balance the needs of delivering quality community services and infrastructure, it was faced with an increase in coastal and marine infrastructure issues.
“In what is presenting as an emerging trend, in 2018-2019 Council expended over $1m on addressing coastal issues, being a third of its general rate revenue,” the letter said.
“This is adding escalating pressure on Council to continue to service the needs of its community whilst dealing with environmental issues that are generally out of Council’s control.
“Council would therefore like to express its appreciation to the Federal Government for the General-Purpose Grant of $501,000 which is largely used to continue to provide services at a level that meet our community’s expectations.”
The Commonwealth Government’s Financial Assistance Grants is worth $2.51 billion in 2019-20, $1.3 billion of which was brought forward and paid on 17 June 2019.
That advanced payment meant Kingston District Council was able to immediately access the money to commence new projects, and benefit from the interest of additional cash in the bank.
Council appreciated that the federal funds were untied, so it could prioritise how the money was spent, unlike many other grants for which local government applies, which are tied to a determined project, Mayor Rasheed added.
States and territories are due to receive a further quarterly instalment in November 2019, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development’s Local Government website said.
Queensland’s Central Highlands Regional Council told ALGA it used its Federal Assistance Grants for activities such as a leadership program for Indigenous men and women, while Launceston City Council in Tasmania used its grants for projects including road and bridge funding.
ALGA is keen to hear from more councils which have written to their local MPs about Financial Assistance Grants as its Fairer Share advocacy campaign continues.
Image: Kingston District Council Mayor Kay Rasheed (left) and Member for Barker, Tony Pasin MP. Courtesy: Coastal Leader.