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Time to harden up to secure federal funding

  • Written by The Times

Local Councils are worse off and haven't received the 'fair increase' in funding promised by the Albanese Government, according to Shadow Minister for Local Government Darren Chester.

Speaking at this week's Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) regional forum, Mr Chester urged Council leaders to harden their message to Canberra.

"Local Government in regional Australia is worse off under the Albanese Government, and collectively, regional Councils are doing nothing different as they advocate for a more sustainable funding model," Mr Chester said.

"Here we are, at another ALGA conference in the nation's capital, in furious agreement that Local Government is under-funded and disrespected by Canberra despite being the level of government closest to the people and best placed to deliver small to medium-size projects in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

Mr Chester said regional Councils were in danger of being ‘too polite’ and needed to strengthen their demands on behalf of ratepayers.

"The time has come to be a lot harder and firmer on behalf of our rural and regional Australians in the demands regional Councils place on other levels of government for funding support,” Mr Chester said.

Local Government received about $4 billion from the total Commonwealth tax revenue of $593 billion in the last Federal Coalition Budget of 2021-22, accounting for 0.67 per cent.

Under Labor, Local Government was apportioned $3.8 billion from an increased total Commonwealth tax revenue of $755 billion in the 2024-25 budget, representing about 0.50 per cent.

“Despite being promised fair increases in the lead up to the 2022 Federal election, it hasn’t happened and is another broken promise by the Albanese Government,” Mr Chester said.

“Building Better Regions Fund, Community Development Grants, Stronger Communities Program, Local Roads and Community Infrastructure and Roads of Strategic Importance, critical grant programs heavily relied on by Local Government, have also been abolished under the Albanese Government.”

Mr Chester said ratepayers in regional Australia were picking up the tab in the middle of a cost of living crisis and a more robust approach was needed to achieve fairer funding outcomes.

"Local Government in regional Australia is going backwards, residents are worse off, and it's all happening at a time when it's the items mined, grown and produced outside of our capital cities that are giving the Treasurer a surplus," Mr Chester said.

"Labor's so-called signature Growing Regions program has taken two years to announce a single project, with nine out of 10 projects rejected.

"This time, we can't even pretend they ran out of money because there's $94 million unallocated in round one and a further $300 million in round two.

"Labor is drip-feeding the funding, and regional Councils sit meekly, afraid to bite the hand that feeds them. But when the hand is starving you to death, it's time to bite back and fight back.

"It's time to end the madness and put Local Government in its rightful position as a critical partner in delivering the service and facilities Australians want and need."

Pictured: Shadow Minister for Local Government and Territories the Hon Darren Chester MP speaking at this year’s Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) regional forum.

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