Regions cop double whammy from Budget
THE pain of this week's Federal Budget will be passed down the line to local councils with a three-year freeze on Federal Assistance Grants (FAGs) announced by Joe Hockey on Tuesday night.
Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam yesterday slammed the Abbott Government, saying the freeze would mean Queensland's councils would forego more than $182 million over the next four years, forcing them to do more with less.
He said the freeze was likely to hit rural, remote and indigenous communities hardest as these councils rely on such grants for much of their income.
"Councils have done as much as they can to be more efficient so this decision is likely to hit jobs and community projects,'' he said.
"On top of the increased transport and building costs to councils as a result of the indexation of fuel excise, this Budget is going to be felt by local councils in Queensland and the communities they serve for years to come.
"Rural, remote and indigenous councils get the double whammy - a freeze on grants at a time when petrol and diesel costs will rise.''
Mr Hallam said all councils used FAGs to build and maintain community assets such as local roads, swimming pools, libraries and community halls as well provide services to the young, the elderly and community groups.
"Each local council decides how these funds are used but when you have got a freeze on funding for the next three years some services will suffer,'' he said.
But on the flipside, Mr Hallam welcomed the Abbott Government's commitment to maintaining the vital Roads to Recovery and Black Spot programs as well as the new Bridges Renewal program.
"Those decisions give us heart that this government acknowledges the value of local transport infrastructure to driving the national economy,'' he said.
Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Cr Peter Blundell said while the FAGs freeze was "disappointing" it was important to remember all levels of government were facing difficult times, with our council's new budget due by the end of July.
"This is something myself, councillors and staff are currently considering as we prepare our budget, knowing we will need to make hard decisions," he said.
"A major impact for us is the announcement that there will be an $80 billion reduction to state governments over the next four years.
"We have already seen a reduction in funding to local government from the Queensland Government and I can only imagine this will exacerbate the situation.
"The cuts are largely in health and education but overall this will create pressure on state budgets.
"Personally I'm pleased to see the return to indexation of the fuel excise.
"For many years there has been a point of contention that money raised from fuel excise was not spent on roads but with the return of this policy, it should help improve our road network throughout QLD and Australia.