Shadow Minister for Local Government, Stephen Jones MP said that having cut nearly a billion dollars in funding to local councils, it is astounding that the Coalition is now congratulating itself for funding to councils through the Financial Assistance Grants scheme.
“In 2013, the Coalition Government imposed a three-year freeze on indexation of Financial Assistance Grants,” Mr Jones said.
“This indexation freeze, which was imposed on local government without any analysis or consultation by the Turnbull Government, saw $925 million cut from their budgets.
“Labor’s analysis of this freeze showed that around two-thirds, or $680 million, was borne by regional communities that can least afford it.
“The Coalition’s Financial Assistance Grants freeze, although now ended, was a shock and a setback to local government.
“It put a squeeze on the ability of all local councils to provide essential community services and forced cuts to infrastructure and maintenance provision,” Mr Jones said.
Member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson MP, said “For councils like Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock and Newcastle, the freeze had a devastating impact and saw $11,812,783 lost to these councils.
“During the freeze, many councils were forced to impose savings, take on debt or ask ratepayers to contribute more,” Ms Swanson said.
Labor knows that Financial Assistance Grants funding are the bedrock of local councils’ financial capacity.
Around $50 billion in Financial Assistance Grants has been provided by the Commonwealth to Local Government since the Whitlam Government introduced these in 1974–75.
This program acknowledged the important contribution of local government to our civic life: a contribution that is not equally matched by your ability to raise revenue.