$1 billion vote of confidence in local councils

Further Commonwealth support for local government in the Federal Budget will help deliver the targeted short-term stimulus critical to national economic recovery and growth.

Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) President David O’Loughlin commended Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s announcement of a further $1 billion investment in the local roads and community infrastructure as a vote of confidence in local government’s ability to drive local economic prosperity.

The massive boost in funding builds on the $500 million Local Roads and Community and Road Infrastructure (LRCI) program announced in May; with councils shortly to receive advice of their allocations from the Government

He said the extra money for local infrastructure, which will be provided to local governments in the calendar year 2021, coupled with councils’ ability access to the $1.2 billion wage subsidy program for trainees and apprentices, will enable them to green-light more “shovel-ready” projects that will employ people in regions still reeling from the combined effects of 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,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

“We reiterated local government’s proven track record in delivering – together with the states and the Commonwealth – significant programs such as Roads to Recovery, Bridges Renewal, Road Safety Blackspots, and drought and bushfire relief initiatives.

“We said that financing shovel-ready projects in local government areas would help ward off recession by stimulating businesses and creating jobs across the country, delivering long-term benefits to the nation in the process.”

“The local government sector is already successfully delivering the first iteration of the LRCI stimulus program, and it stands ready to do more.”

Mayor O’Loughlin also welcomed recent announcements by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack that added nearly $400 million to efforts to boost regional jobs, road safety, freight productivity, communication networks, and skills development.

Councils will also have a role in NBN Co’s plans to invest in extending fibre-direct connections to homes and businesses. The $4.5 billion plan includes the creation of a $300 million fund to co-invest with local governments to improve broadband services in the bush and beyond.

Local governments that rely heavily on domestic and international visitors, especially those outside the big cities, will also benefit from a $50 million Regional Tourism Recovery initiative, and a new $200 million round of the Building Better Regions Fund.

Mayor O’Loughlin thanked the Government for its support for locally led economic recovery.

“The financing of infrastructure projects in local government areas will create jobs, provide support for local businesses, and provide new hope to local communities that have done it tough for nine months or more,” he said  

Mayor O’Loughlin said local government leaders – fully aware of the importance of the regions in enabling national economic recovery – would get on with the job of identifying eligible projects in partnership with their communities.