ALGA gives qualified nod to budget

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has welcomed the maintenance of the Financial Assistance Grants (FAGS) delivered in the recent Federal Budget. FAGs provide vital support that assists councils to provide local services and infrastructure, which is needed by all communities. ALGA has strongly argued that the current level of funding is inadequate and that a review is required.

ALGA President Genia McCaffery also praised the Government's decision to again bring forward the first quarterly payment of the 2011/12 Financial Assistance Grants, worth $536.6 million into the current financial year.

"Bringing the first quarterly grants payment forward from August to June will help to smooth out the cash flow, especially in rural and regional councils which rely heavily on the Financial Assistance Grants. The last thing small communities need as we emerge from the downturn is a reduction in the cash available because of a reduced cash flow for the council."

Genia McCaffery said the return to surplus foreshadowed in the 2011/12 budget also created an opportunity for renewed investment in infrastructure and services for our communities in coming years.

ALGA's budget submission noted that this was going to be a difficult budget, even before the effects of natural disasters in Australia and Japan were fully known.

The ALGA also welcomes the Government's commitment of $4.3 billion to regional Australia and $180 million to urban policy initiatives with a particular focus on jobs.

"ALGA's 2010 State of the Regional Report highlighted the critical importance of jobs to support local communities and take pressure off housing markets," she said.