A State Government plan to resume responsibility for 400 kilometres of local roads – less than three percent of the promised 15,000 – was a massive disappointment for local government, the sector’s peak body said today.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said councils had been eagerly awaiting the first steps towards the takeback promised by the NSW Government at the 2019 State election.
“Almost 120 councils across NSW applied for priority road takebacks, but only five applications – representing just over 391 kilometres of road – met the Government’s criteria,” Cr Scott said.
“This falls woefully short of what we were hoping for.
“This outcome also raises real concerns about the Government’s subsequent commitment to help councils maintain local jobs by awarding Road Maintenance Council Contracts (RMCC) to them.
“These contracts are vitally important to ensure councils are not financially worse off under road takebacks and, equally importantly, not forced to lay off road maintenance workers under new arrangements.”
Cr Scott said LGNSW would be seeking assurances from the Government that councils would not be worse off under road reclassification and takeback arrangements, and that council jobs were protected in the process.
Her comments follow the NSW Government’s release of the Independent Panel’s Interim Report into road classification and the transfer of regional roads to state ownership, including recommendations for a Priority Round of transfers and reclassifications.
“The Government undertakes reclassification of roads on a regular basis, and all too often councils are foisted with more and more roads to take care of. The local government sector is currently responsible for around 80 per cent of NSW’s 163,000 kilometres of roads,” Cr Scott said.
“This is cost shifting at its worst and has absorbed billions of dollars of ratepayers’ money over the past decade.
“We fought hard for the Government to take back roads to alleviate the unsustainable burden borne by councils, and welcomed the Government’s 2019 election promise.
“I was also encouraged when the Government set aside $250 million towards upgrading transferred roads in this year’s State Budget, which amounts to around 1000 kilometres of road sealing and will bring welcome improvements to our State’s road network.
“I am hopeful that when the Government’s full round of applications for road takeback open at the end of this month, we will start to see faster progress along with the guarantees we seek around maintenance contracts to ensure communities are not worse off and local jobs are protected.”