ALGA's campaign to reinstate Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) indexation as soon as possible was a priority for me this week as I met with State and Territory Local Government Association Presidents to review the campaign and how it could be progressed against the backdrop of our broader election asks in an anticipated 2016 Federal election.
Our campaign has had considerable success in several areas including: making the Government aware of councils' concerns about the indexation freeze and its impact, building knowledge of and support for FAGs among Federal Parliamentarians and making councils themselves more aware of the importance of acknowledging FAGs as a vital source of Commonwealth support. The impact of the indexation freeze was also a factor mentioned when agreement was reached to allocate more than $1 billion in revenue from the reinstatement of fuel indexation to the Roads to Recovery program.
But we still face an uphill battle in our undertaking to restore FAGs indexation. The decision to freeze the indexation of FAGs was driven by its contribution to the restoration of the Federal Budget position. That job is only partly done and the Government has signalled that it will still need to find further expenditure cuts. We cannot afford to take anything for granted and we must maintain our momentum, particularly as we approach the next election.
That is why I recently seized the opportunity to discuss our FAGs campaign at meetings with various Federal ministers and backbenchers at Parliament House in Canberra. During these meetings I reiterated the importance of FAGs as a vital part of the revenue base of all councils and our strong concern that the current level of FAGs funding has not kept pace with demand for services and infrastructure in local communities.
While the Government certainly deserves our congratulations for the decision to provide more than $1 billion in extra funding for the Roads to Recovery program, that money is tied funding that must be spent on road projects. FAGs are untied funding and are critical to enabling each council to address its different pressures and commitments and fund the projects that are most needed by its community.
We must continue to engage our Federal MPs at the local level to seek their support for FAGs. Fifty per cent of councils have now passed a resolution acknowledging the importance of FAGs funding to their community. I urge those councils that are yet to do so to pass that resolution and to engage with their local Federal politicians where there is an opportunity to show the local benefits of FAGs.
Mayor Troy Pickard