Councils rejoice over $1.8 billion cash splash

Queensland councils are the big winners out of the federal government’s $500 million roads and infrastructure stimulus program – the largest single injection of COVID relief funds for local government to date.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday that Australian councils will share half a billion dollars of federal funding through the Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program.

Scott Morrison

Funding allocations take into consideration road length and population, as well as recommendations of the Local Government Grants Commission, and are calculated in a similar way to the Roads to Recovery program and the road component of the Financial Assistance Grants.

Australia’s biggest council by population, City of Brisbane, was allocated almost $12 million, while Gold Coast and Moreton Bay Councils were each allocated in access in of $5 million.

Toowoomba received $4 million and Logan City, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast and Western Downs are eligible for around $3.5 million.

All up, 12 Queensland councils will get more than $2 million of funding each, as will 13 Victorian councils and seven in NSW.

State by state, NSW takes home the lion’s share of funding with $139.3 million. Queensland and Victoria both netted more than $100 million in funding.

See how your council fared here.

The roads and infrastructure boost is part of a $1.8 billion stimulus package which includes the bringing forward of $13 billion worth of Financial Assistance Grants.

“Our funding boost will help councils accelerate priority projects that will employ locally and support local business and also stimulating our economy,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

“We know this is going to be vital support, particularly for councils that have faced the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and now COVID-19.”

The peak body for local government in Australia, ALGA, described it as “tremendous news” for councils, staff and elected representatives.

Councils will need to submit applications for their allocated funding, which will be available from July 1. Read more here.

State by state funding under the Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program

  • NSW: $139.36m
  • Vic: $101.73m
  • Qld: $101.70m
  • WA: $73.51m
  • SA: $44.93m
  • Tas: $16.28m
  • NT: $14.54m
  • ACT: $7.97m
Relief for councils
The Municipal Association of Victoria said the funding was crucial to recover from COVID-19 and stimulate economies.
“Local economies have suffered from the economic downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Summer bushfires. Councils, supported by Federal and State Governments, will play a pivotal role in driving local economic recovery,” President Coral Ross said.

LGAQ President Mark Jamieson said the funding was welcome relief for councils that had been wearing significant revenue losses as a result of coronavirus, while providing support and stimulus to residents and business.

“We thank the Federal Government for listening to Queensland councils and their counterparts across the country and delivering much-needed stimulus at this critical time,” Cr Jamieson said.

“Councils will continue to work with the federal government to ensure extra funding flows in future years so the economic sustainability of councils and their communities is maintained.”

First step to recovery

LGNSW said the cash injection was the first step on the road to a locally led recovery.

Linda Scott

“This funding will help keep local economies from collapse by keeping the tens of thousands of people who make up our invaluable local government workforce in jobs,” president Linda Scott said.

Cr Scott welcomed the advance payment of the year’s second instalment of FAGS  but noted the grant amount had not been increased.

So while the cash flow would help keep councils liquid, it wouldn’t actually provide for any extra infrastructure, she said.

She said payment of an additional half-year instalment to councils, over and above Friday’s announcement, would provide an additional $400 million to NSW councils, and make a massive difference to the communities they represented.

WALGA said more than $70 million had been committed to the state and every West Australian local government would receive some funding.

Finally some help, says WA

WALGA President and ALGA Vice President Tracey Roberts said the state would see the injection of $73 million into local projects.

She said local government in WA had missed out on the financial support and support offered to other states.

“Consequently while the Federal funding package is a national initiative, it will be especially appreciated by WA Councils and their communities.”

LGAT President Christina Holmdahl said the announcement would lead to around $16 million for expenditure on local roads and community infrastructure in Tasmania and councils were  already working to identify suitable, ready projects that can be brought forward.

Mayor Christina Holmdahl

The bringing forward of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) payments would also provide benefit to councils that were are facing short term cash flow, she said.

The peak body for local government officers, Local Government Professionals Australia, welcomed the package, saying it would help councils deliver local jobs and local business.

“The stimulus will see priority local road and community infrastructure projects delivered through local governments creating new jobs and protecting businesses to help communities bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic,” chief executive Clare Sullivan said.

‘Welcome but modest’

Labor described the program as ‘welcome but modest”.

Councils still had to seek approval from the Commonwealth before funding for projects can be delivered, infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King and local government spokesman Jason Clare said in a joint statement.

“Additionally, the government must ensure that the money is distributed on a transparent and equitable basis, unlike some previous Coalition programs,” they said.

It comes after draft budgets and economic modelling showed that the double whammy of COVID-19 and bushfires was stretching councils to their limits.

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