Sunday, May 26, 2024

LGAQ: Budget falls short for councils

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has welcomed extra housing, airstrip and road funding announced in the Federal Budget but warned councils and communities are being left behind while the Federal Government fails to fairly fund the sector.

“The Federal Government promised ‘fair funding’ two years ago but councils are still waiting,” said LGAQ Chief Executive Officer, Alison Smith (pictured).

“For councils, ‘fair funding’ would be restoring the Financial Assistance Grants once again to at least one  per cent of Federal taxation revenue,” she said.

“While FA Grants to Queensland councils will increase from $653.1 million in 2024/25 to $739.2 million in 2027/28, they remain flat at just over 0.5%, or half of what they need to be to adequately support local communities.”

Ms Smith said there was no more critical time to properly fund councils than during the current cost-of-living crisis.

“This is a disappointing Budget for the sector that so many communities rely on, and never more so than when times get tough for households,” she said.

“Every day, councils are providing the parks, libraries, playgrounds, community events and cohesion their residents need more than ever when household budgets are feeling the strain.”

The LGAQ chief executive said Queensland councils were at “a tipping point”.

“The LGAQ’s cost shifting research has found councils – and their ratepayers – are being forced to cover a $360 million black hole every single year, up 378% since we last tallied up the cost shifting burden two decades ago.

“That’s money that could otherwise be spent on core council services, which ratepayers rightfully expect.   

“Instead, our cost shifting research has found that Queensland councils are doing the work of others by running post offices, aged care and child care; rebroadcasting free to air television; operating morgues; owning and managing concrete plants.  

“Cost shifting from other levels of government have loaded them with more and more services to keep their communities going but without the funding to match.

“And while we also welcome the federal inquiry into the  sustainability of local government, councils need immediate funding action on FA Grants.”

The Budget includes:

  • An additional $1 billion for states and territories to deliver enabling infrastructure, taking the Government’s total investment in the Housing Support Program to $1.5 billion.
  • An additional $101.9 million over five years from 2024–25 (and $0.8 million per year ongoing) to extend the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program and the Regional Airports Program for two additional rounds, and continue the Remote Aerodrome Inspection Programme to improve aviation safety and access at remote airstrips and regional airports.
  • A new $50 million pilot program to boost mobile coverage on regional highways and major roads is allocated, with more detail to come.
  • As announced in December, Roads to Recovery funding will rise gradually from $500 million to $1 billion per year, and Black Spot funding will increase from the current annual commitment of $110 million to $150 million per year. The long-standing Bridges Renewal Program and Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program are now merged under the Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program. 
  • National Water Grid funding will continue to flow after being re-shaped in the first budget from the current Federal Government, with $61.7 million available in FY 24/25, $72.1 million in FY 25/26 and $62.3 million in FY 26/27 for Queensland. This represents around 17 percent of the national funding allocation.
  • Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program (LRCIP) is turned off in 2026/27, with funding only allocated for another two budgets – to 30 June 2026. $48.7million is allocated in FY24/25, with $50.5 million allocated in FY25/26 in Queensland.

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