Budget ignores local roads

The Federal Budget has left local government funding untouched with key programs such as Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) and Roads to Recovery (R2R) to continue at current levels.

The Budget also delivers no change to the Bridges Renewal Program, the Black Spot Program, the Building Better Regions Fund and Safer Communities Fund.

On the up side, the Government has committed $29.7 million to deliver up to 500 local community sporting infrastructure grants of up to $500,000 to improve community sporting facilities.

President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Mayor David O'Loughlin, said that the government had missed an opportunity to strengthen its freight measures by failing to address first and last mile connectivity issues.

"The Government's strong focus on upgrading key freight routes reflects the need to unlock the productive potential of our arterial networks.

"But we know almost every freight journey starts and ends on a road built, owned and maintained by local government, and with the freight task set to double by 2020, the nation can't afford to have a substandard local road network and we can't afford to upgrade it on our own.”

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President, Linda Scott, said, "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.

"That freeze is equal to a permanent reduction in the funding base of about 13 per cent - 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.

"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.

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.

An urban congestion fund designed to address metropolitan bottlenecks was welcomed, as was the ongoing commitment to the Inland Rail Project. 

Cr Scott said that while a small number of key projects have received funding, sustained investment in community-based infrastructure is missing.

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