A $206 million increase in funding available for community infrastructure in regional areas has been applauded by the NSW local government sector.
The new money will be released in an additional funding round of the Building Better Regions Fund, and is in addition to $611.2 million available from the five-year National Stronger Regions Fund, which kicked off in 2015‑16.
“This is great news for our regions and has the potential to significantly assist the work being undertaken by councils to boost regional economies and deliver better infrastructure and services to their communities,” LGNSW President Cr Linda Scott said.
“The Federal Budget also provides $42.5 million in 2018-19 to expand the Community Sport Infrastructure Program, which previously delivered 24 grants of up to $500,000 each to NSW councils to improve local community sport infrastructure.
“Funding for local infrastructure is one of LGNSW’s top advocacy priorities for 2019 and we are hopeful that this new funding will see many more councils funded to provide much-needed sporting facilities for their communities.”
Cr Scott said other key benefits for NSW regional councils included:
Funding of $453.1 million over two years to extend National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education – formerly due to end in 30 June 2020. Local government is the largest provider of early childhood education and care services in NSW with more than 300 services across the state. This time-limited funding commitment compares with Federal Labor’s pledge to permanently fund pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds.
$5.9 billion over two years from 2020-21 to extend the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), which had been scheduled to cease in June 2020. Some 70 NSW councils deliver direct aged care under this program, ranging from delivery of meals, home maintenance, domestic assistance, cleaning and social connection activities that help older people live independently for longer in their own homes.
“These announcements provide a certain level of funding certainty, which is important for councils and their ability to plan for the care needs of their communities,” Cr Scott said.
“We also welcome the $62.2 million which will be invested over five years to provide a sustainable future workforce of GPs for rural areas.
“This commitment is in line with a 2018 LGNSW Annual Conference resolution, which highlighted the need for the state and federal governments to work with local government to contribute to financial packages for the engagement of doctors in rural towns.
“Health care may be a state and federal responsibility, but councils in rural and regional NSW often have no choice other than to contribute funds and support to ensure their communities have access to the level of health care all Australians deserve.”
LGNSW last week welcomed the announcement of a 27.5% increase in road funding for councils, under the national Roads to Recovery Program.
“NSW councils’ share of the national Roads to Recovery funding base will increase by an additional $27.9 million per year to $139.3 million per year between 2020/21 and 2022/23.
“It’s a positive step forwards but unfortunately it will still leave councils with an annual shortfall of approximately $700 million.
“Continued under-investment in local roads acts as a brake on the economy, hindering not only local and regional social and economic development but also the development and productivity of the nation as a whole.
“That’s why LGNSW will be maintaining our strong focus on the need for better funding of local roads, including a permanent doubling of Roads to Recovery funding.”