Three months after the Abbott Government handed down its unfair budget, local councils are still struggling to make up for the $1 billion slashed from the Local Government Financial Assistance Grants program.
Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke was in Ballarat today with Federal Member Catherine King to discuss the budget cuts with councils and the impact they’re having on communities in regional Victoria.
Mr Burke said regional and rural councils were particularly affected due to their reliance on the Federal Government funding to build roads.
“Councils play an important role in building and maintaining roads in rural and regional Australia and the Abbott Government is making their job harder,” Mr Burke said.
“Councils all over Australia are now having to make tough decisions about where in their communities they’re going to have to cut because of the Abbott Government’s unfair budget. That can only hurt services, roads and jobs.”
Federal Member for Ballarat Catherine King said she was pleased to have Mr Burke in Ballarat to hear the concerns of small rural councils about the Abbott Government’s indexation freeze of financial assistance grants to local government.
“The freeze will grind regional economies to a halt stripping the equivalent of almost a $1 billion from local council budgets across the forward estimates,” Ms King said.
“As a result, Tony Abbott is forcing local councils to cut critical road or community infrastructure investment, reduce services or increase rates.”
Investment in regional infrastructure and services is essential to stimulate regional economies and create jobs and this requires co-investment from all levels of government.
“What we’ve seen in the first year of the Abbott Government is an entirely different approach whereby regional communities are increasingly being told to go it alone.”
The Local Government Financial Assistance Grants program was established by Labor in 1974 and provides vital funding for councils to invest in priority infrastructure. Before the 2013 election Labor committed more than $2 billion per year to local councils through the program.