In fact, the Federal Government plays a huge role in supporting local government, and by extension local projects and services in our communities.
To put it in perspective, South Australian councils expect to receive around a quarter of a billion dollars in Commonwealth grants next financial year, which is about four times the amount they will receive through the State Government.
Over the next few weeks leading up to 2 July, the Local Government Association is encouraging all South Australian voters to consider the question “does your pollie think local?”
The LGA has written to all of the parties and outlined our key priorities for the election. The first of these is the re-indexation of Financial Assistance Grants, which provide untied funding to councils that can be allocated to community services. The Government announced a three year indexation freeze on these grants in 2015, which is going to amount to $1 billion less funding available to councils around Australia, and permanently wipe around 13% off of the value of this grant.
The LGA is seeking immediate re-indexation of Financial Assistance Grants, as well as a commitment to increase the funding pool to at least 1% of total Commonwealth taxation, which is the level it was at two decades ago. Councils directly employ 10,000 South Australians, and manage more than $22 billion of infrastructure on behalf of their communities, and it’s vital they receive a fair share of federal funding to carry out the increasingly broad range of services and programs they are being asked to deliver.
We are also asking for a fair go for road funding to our State. South Australian councils receive an incredibly unfair share of national road funding, and this has traditionally been acknowledged by the Federal Government of the day. In the past it was addressed with additional annual funding of $17.5 million, but this allocation was discontinued in 2015, and we are seeking the reintroduction of fair funding for our road network.
There’s no denying our State is doing it tough at the moment, with high unemployment and underemployment, and many households struggling with cost of living pressures. Councils are increasingly being asked to do more for their communities, which they are doing while working to minimise rate increases. Our sector is a partner in government, and we believe we have an important role to play in our State’s economic recovery, but councils need to be adequately resourced for this.
Councils are the sector of government closest to communities, and we are committed to ensuring our communities get a fair deal from the Federal Government. I would encourage you to support this push by speaking or writing to your local candidate to ask them how they will care for the communities they are endeavouring to represent, and what they are doing to fight for a fair level of federal funding for South Australia.
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