Budget’s ‘vote of confidence’ in councils

Tuesday’s big-spending budget is packed with initiatives designed to drive a locally-led economic recovery with money splashed out for roads, infrastructure and regions.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Australian councils have hailed it as a vote of confidence in the ability of local government to steer the nation back to prosperity after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a $213.7 billion deficit with debt peaking at $966 billion in 2024.

“Australians have been tested as never before,” Mr Frydenberg said as he delivered the 1920-21 budget.

“Flood, fires, drought and a global pandemic. Lives have been lost, businesses have closed, jobs have gone.”

But he said the budget would help rebuild the economy by building more roads, rail and bridges, with $14 billion in new and accelerated infrastructure projects and $2 billion for road safety upgrades.

The government will expand the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure program, with an additional $1 billion for councils to immediately upgrade local roads, footpaths and street lighting.

“These investments in our local communities will support local jobs,” he said.

The money will be provided on a “use it or lose it” basis, Mr Frydenberg warned.

“If a state drags its feet, another state will get the money. We need works to start, not stall,” he said.

Local roads and infrastructure

ALGA President David O’Loughlin

ALGA president David O’Loughlin said the extra money for local roads and community infrastruture, coupled with councils’ ability access to the $1.2 billion wage subsidy program for trainees and apprentices, would enable them to green-light more “shovel-ready” projects and employ people in regions still reeling from natural disasters and the coronavirus pandemic.

“When Covid-19 sent us into national lockdown in March, ALGA called for fast, targeted short-term stimulus with long-term benefits – directed through council – and here it is,” he said.

(The) announcement of a further $1 billion investment in the local roads and community infrastructure is a vote of confidence in local government’s ability to drive local economic prosperity.

ALGA President David O’Loughlin

Local government leaders would now get on with the job of identifying eligible projects in partnership with their communities, Cr O’Loughlin said.

Supporting regions

Mr Frydenberg said the regions had endured the most widespread natural disasters in decades and budget papers provide $552.9 million over four years for a package of measures to help regional Australia to recover and build resilience.

The funding would boost regional jobs, businesses, communication networks, tourism and skills, Cr O’Loughlin said.

LGNSW Presdient Linda Scott said there was plenty in the budget to directly benefit councils and their communities.

Linda Scott

 “NSW councils manage and maintain 90 per cent of the state’s roads, so this funding is lifeblood for them, while the investment in community infrastructure recognises the critical role played by councils in keeping local workers in job,” she said.

“There is no quick fix – economic recovery will be an ongoing process, and each tier of government is working hard to play its part.

 “LGNSW is committed to supporting councils so they can do what they do best: lead their local communities in a desperately needed financial recovery.”

Key announcements for councils:

  •  $1 billion boost over two years for the local roads and community infrastructure program
  • $2 billion over two years for the National Road Safety Program
  • $137 million for the Black Spot Program
  • $89.7 million for the Bridges Renewal Program
  • $590 million for Roads to Recovery
  • $200 for the Building Better Regions Fund, including $100 for tourism infrastructure
  • $100 million for Regional Recovery Partnerships between states, territories and local government
  • $100 million for drought resilience for local government
  • $5.7 million to build skills and capacity of local leaders
  • $30.3 million to extend the Regional Connectivity Program to deliver digital services

Major projects funded across each state:

  • The Singleton Bypass and Bolivia Hill Upgrade in New South Wales
  • The upgrade of the Shepparton and Warrnambool Rail Lines in Victoria
  • The Coomera Connector in Queensland
  • The Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network in Western Australia
  • The Main South Road Duplication in South Australia
  • The Tasman Bridge Upgrade in Tasmania
  • The Carpentaria Highway Upgrades in the Northern Territory
  • The Molonglo River Bridge in the Australian Capital Territory

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