Federal stimulus package wins council applause

NSW councils have applauded the Federal Government for a fantastic first step on the road to a locally led recovery, following the announcement of $0.5 billion additional funding to be shared by councils across the country.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said the new funding would help stimulate local economies through the construction and maintenance of infrastructure including pools, parks and libraries and roads.

“Councils are truly grateful for this recognition of need, and committed to seeing the funding is used to help their communities survive and recover from the economic impacts of not only COVID-19, but also the bushfires, floods and droughts that preceded the pandemic,” Cr Scott said.

“This funding will help keep local economies from collapse by keeping the tens of thousands of people who make up our invaluable local government workforce in jobs.

“It helps communities now, and it delivers public good for tomorrow.

“Communities know there’s a shortage of good quality public infrastructure in NSW, and without assistance such as this, councils could struggle to deliver our parks, libraries, sporting fields and footpaths into the future.”

Cr Scott also welcomed the second component of the stimulus package, which will see the Federal Government make an advance payment of Financial Assistance Grants to councils.

“It’s also great that the Federal Government is bringing forward the second instalment of Financial Assistance Grants this year, as they have for the past eight or nine years,” she said.

“We do need to be mindful that the actual funding under the Financial Assistance Grant has not increased under this package and so cannot provide for additional infrastructure.

“But there is no doubt that bringing the payment date forward will certainly assist with cash flow and liquidity issues for councils, who are fighting to save jobs and sustain their local economies.

“We thank Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Local Government Minister Mark Coultan for not only listening to local government, but also acting decisively to deliver an initial round of financial stimulus and support for councils.”

Cr Scott said the funding package announced today marked a very good start on the long road to recovery.

“This will be a marathon, not a sprint – and without taking away from this announcement in any way, we would urge the Federal Government to consider the next step so we do not lose the momentum they and our councils are creating,” she said.

“Payment of an additional half-year instalment to councils, over and above today’s announcement, would provide an additional $400 million to NSW councils, and would make a massive difference to the communities they represent.

“We want to work in partnership with our Federal and State colleagues, who’ve done a great job minimising the direct health impacts of the pandemic, and are increasingly focused on our economic future.

“Local Government understands only too acutely the budgetary pressures facing all tiers of Government, and we stand ready and able to play our part.

“In the short term we will await further detail on the state-by-state allocation of this package, and on the funding criteria to be applied.

“And in the longer term, we look forward to continuing to work with the Federal and State governments to sustain local economies and deliver greater public good to the communities we all serve.”

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