Victorian Government wrong on council funding
08 May 2015
Financial Assistance Grants for Councils in Victoria over 2014–15 went up by $8,590,248 to a total of $541.8 million. That's a far cry from the $30 million cut claimed by Victoria's new Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins yesterday.
Additionally, the Coalition's Roads to Recovery programme will deliver a further $427.2 million over five years to Victoria—$71.2 million more than Labor provided under their programme.
In 2014/15, Councils in Victoria also received $13.8 million through the Black Spots programme, $7.9 million from the Australian Government's new $300 million Bridges Renewal Programme and $348,000 under our expanded $200 million Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme.
Labor is engaged in a baseless scare campaign, preying on the misunderstanding of some councils and communities.
The Government has temporarily paused indexation (or rate of increase in payments) of the Financial Assistance Grants programme for three years, but is still providing $9.3 billion via these grants to local governments—importantly, with no strings attached so councils can spend it entirely on local priorities determined by them.
Even so, this three-year freeze on indexation is more than offset by increases in other federal government funding to councils.
In addition to the $9.3 billion in Financial Assistance Grants to council, the Australian Government is investing $2.1 billion for local roads under the Roads 2 Recovery Programme. This includes an extra $350 million under our Infrastructure Growth Package to double funding in 2015–16.
We are also providing $500 million for Black Spots—including an extra $200 million—to fix dangerous and accident-prone sections of local roads and streets.
We are also investing $300 million on our new Bridges Renewal programme to help repair and replace local bridges.
These investments recognise that road funding is one of the biggest ticket items for local councils.
But the Australian Government is also investing $1 billion through the new National Stronger Regions Fund to promote economic development through investment in infrastructure at a local level. That is on top of the over $300 million we have invested in Community Development Grants for 300 projects in local communities.
This training-wheels Minister doesn't understand that the funding allocated for Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements projects has been reduced because there were less disasters and restoration projects are nearing completion. That's good news for disaster-affected communities and is testament to the Government's commitment to getting these communities back on track as quickly as possible after disaster strikes.
Clearly, councils would like more. The Government would like to give them more. But that can only be achieved if we bring the national accounts into order. Failure to do so would cast serious doubt over future funding arrangements.