Budget supports safer communities, but has disappointments
Today’s State Budget includes significant funding that will help councils to deliver even more support to their communities, particularly young children and families, but also contains some unwelcome surprises.
“All communities, regardless of where they live, have a right to expect a minimum standard of community services,” MAV President Cr Mary Lalios said.
“We are pleased to see that today’s budget includes a record $1.9 billion for family violence measures, which includes 17 Support and Safety Hubs and a Central Information Point.
“We welcome the significant investment in early childhood services, many of which are delivered or supported by councils. There is $87.1 million in funding for kindergartens, including $55 million to provide greater support for young children facing particular challenges.
“As well as this, $81.1 million for Maternal and Child Health services will allow council MCH nurses to provide greater support to local families and give children the best start in life. This funding does not require co-investment by councils.
“Last year the government announced a return to a 50:50 funding partnership for school crossing supervisors, but today’s budget does not shed any light on how this will be achieved from 1 July as promised.
“Victorian councils have been contributing as much as 80 per cent of the program costs, so the MAV will continue working with the government to ensure it delivers on its 50:50 commitment so that children can continue to get to school safely.
“Communities will also be kept safe with $14.9 million to cover the operational costs of the State Emergency Service.
“The MAV has been working with the government to ensure a more sustainable and fair funding model for the SES, because we believe it is a critically important service that shouldn’t have to rely on local councils, fundraisers and community goodwill.
“Overall the budget is positive, but we are surprised the State increased its employment costs by $2 billion (10 per cent) in 2016/17 while other sectors, including local government, were under financial constraint.
“It’s also disappointing that the government has halved the Growing Suburbs Fund and is raiding the Sustainability Fund and landfill levy for initiatives like the Parks Victoria Asset Management System and website redevelopment.
“There is also a lack of detail around the State Government’s plan to take over property valuations and conduct them annually from 2019. This policy was announced without any consultation with councils, who are currently responsible for most property valuations in Victoria.
“It is also disappointing to see that there is no money for rural council roads and bridges, something the MAV has repeatedly requested. Local roads are critical to the state’s freight network and need to be adequately funded to support rural and regional economies.”
Other budget initiatives benefiting local government include $1.45 billion for regional rail services; $500 million for regional roads (VicRoads); $5.4 million for roadside pests and weeds; $273.3 million for bushfire risk mitigation; and an extra $10 million for the Sports Infrastructure Fund.
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Contact Cr Mary Lalios on 0447 189 409 or MAV Communications on 9667 5547.