A local government perspective on the federal budget: focused on individuals, not communities – It’s been a busy week at Local Government NSW! We’ve been in the Riverina Murray for our first council summit and had the privilege of visiting several councils in the region, while keeping a close eye on national developments with the handing down of the federal budget on Tuesday night.
On your behalf, we lobbied in partnership with our interstate counterparts, through the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), in the lead up to the federal budget for a better deal for local government and our communities.
The federal budget focussed more on individuals than communities, and that’s disappointing for local governments.
While key programs such as the Financial Assistance Grants and Roads to Recovery Program will continue, we were disappointed that the government has not sought to redress any of the shortfall in federal assistance funding that resulted from the three-year indexation freeze, meaning NSW councils will continue to shoulder the impact – equal to a permanent base reduction of 13 per cent.
Funding for the crucial Roads to Recovery Program is returning to pre-2015/16 levels, with NSW to receive $85.4 million in 2018/19 and $111.5 million in 2019/20.
The Bridges Renewal Program, the Black Spot Program, the Building Better Regions and Safer Communities funds will continue as anticipated. The Government also announced $29.7 million for up to 500 local community sporting infrastructure grants of up to $500,000. We’ll let you know when they become available.
Other commitments included: $971 million for the Coffs Harbour Bypass, $400 million for the Port Botany Rail Line duplication and Cabramatta passing loop; an urban congestion fund designed to address metropolitan bottlenecks; and an 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.
We welcome these infrastructure commitments, although note some (for example, the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication) have been previously promised by former governments, then cut – and now restored – by the current government.
Noticeably, the budget was silent on the issue of recycling.
Strengthening LGNSW’s value, council summits – LGNSW’s series of council summits for 2018 kicked off on Thursday with our Riverina Murray summit, hosted by Leeton Shire Council.
Some 40 mayors, councillors and senior staff from Berrigan, Bland, Carrathool, Coolamon, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Griffith, Leeton, Lockhart, Murray River, Murrumbidgee, Narrandera, Temora, Wagga Wagga and Riverina Water made the summit the success it was by sharing great examples from their region about the strength of local government.
These regional summits provide you with the opportunity to raise matters important to your councils and communities with LGNSW Board members and me.
We’re looking forward to the Illawarra/Shoalhaven Summit, in Shellharbour, on Wednesday 23 May. If you are a mayor, councillor, general manager or deputy GM, we hope to see you there. Find out more and register online.
Listening to member councils – I’m grateful to the mayors, councillors and general managers of Lockhart, Federation, Berrigan Shire, Edward River, Murray River, Carrathool Shire, Murrumbidgee, Leeton and Griffith City for hosting our visits this week.
I’m very committed to travelling to meet you all and will continue to work closely across all of NSW so LGNSW can best advocate for your council, and the communities we serve.