Stable budget, but more needed

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The Albanese Government has been cooperative in working to understand the challenges of local government since it came to office in 2022, and while councils didn’t lose in this week’s budget, neither was it the boost required.

The biggest piece of the federal budget puzzle for councils is Financial Assistance Grants and while the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) acknowledges the grants will deliver $746 million across the state, we look forward to the delivery of Labor’s election commitment for ‘fair increases’ in future budgets.

MAV President Cr David Clark said roads funding is a huge issue for Victoria specifically.

“After the floods last year councils across the state are dealing with severe damage and increasing demands on maintenance and reconstruction. The funding for flood warning infrastructure is welcomed, but there's a roads funding gap for Victorian councils is in the order of $300 million,” Cr Clark said.

The re-direction of the final stage of Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program to local roads is recognition of this problem, however Victoria's share is only around $50 million.

“LRCIP has delivered much needed infrastructure for communities across Australia and the loss of the program will create significant challenges for community infrastructure like drainage, playgrounds and other public use facilities.  This will particularly hit resource constrained councils hardest,” Cr Clark explained.

Cr Clark cautiously welcomed new funds through the Thriving Suburbs and Urban Precincts and Partnerships Programs, but noted previous competitive grant-based programs like this were the subject of political interference, not fair process.

“Local Government as a whole is much better served with LCIRP-style programs where councils have an allocated funding amount to spend on priorities already agreed with community, rather than needing to dream up ‘winning’ bids, Cr Clark said.