Media release - Feds fund big projects but miss local opportunities

8 May 2018

The Federal Budget handed down by Treasurer Scott Morrison tonight offers some benefits for the local government sector, but focuses on individuals rather than communities, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said today.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said the Turnbull-McCormack Government’s last Budget before the next Federal election had a strong personal tax focus.

“The Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) on which so many regional and rural councils rely have been maintained in real terms, but the Government has not sought to redress any of the shortfall resulting from the recent three-year indexation freeze,” Clr Scott said.

“That freeze is equal to a permanent reduction in the funding base of about 13% - which means communities going without library improvements, community pools, early childhood education centres to allow parents back into the workforce, and roads to deliver jobs and economic development to regions.

“The Federal Government has missed an opportunity to deliver a Community Infrastructure Program of $300 million per annum nationally, for four years, to stimulate growth and build community resilience.”

Clr Scott said funding for the crucial Roads to Recovery Program was returning to pre-2015/16 levels, with NSW to receive $85.4 million in 2018/19 and $111.5 million in 2019/20.

“ALGA research found councils across Australia would face an annual shortfall of $1.2 billion if the Government chose to simply to maintain local roads to 2025,” she said.

“Continued under investment in local roads acts as a brake on the economy, hindering not only local and regional social and economic development but the development and productivity of the nation as a whole.”

The Budget was notably silent on the current recycling crisis, with no specific funding commitment to help mitigate the impacts of China’s National Sword Policy.

"To ensure recycling has a future in NSW, industry, community, local, state and federal governments need to work together,” Clr Scott said. "NSW Councils are working to avoid waste in the first place, and we had hoped the Budget may have given some insight into the Federal Government’s commitment to playing its part to resolve this critical issue.”

Clr Scott welcomed confirmation that the Federal Government would commit $971 million for the Coffs Harbour Bypass, $400 million for the Port Botany Rail Line duplication and Cabramatta passing loop; and a urban congestion fund designed to address metropolitan bottlenecks.

Also welcome was the ongoing commitment to the Inland Rail Project, which the Government has said will add $2.6 billion to the gross state domestic product for NSW. 

“The Federal Government deserves commendation for investment in a small number of key infrastructure  projects.

“However, it is disappointing that in this pre-election budget a sustained investment in community-based infrastructure with Councils is missing.

“Investment in community infrastructure is absolutely critical to local governments and the communities they represent.”

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Media: Toni Allan 0412 774 441