Roads and congestion busters welcomed, but recycling commitment lacking

Money to fight urban congestion and a big boost for black spot road funding were the big ticket items for NSW metropolitan councils in the Federal Budget, according to Local Government NSW (LGNSW).

The peak body’s President, Cr Linda Scott, said the Urban Congestion Fund would deliver $4 billion over five years to help remediate congestion bottlenecks in urban areas such as metropolitan Sydney, with an additional $2.1 billion from 2019-20 to ease population pressures.

“This is good news for city areas groaning under the burden of development without sufficient supporting infrastructure,” Cr Scott said.

“We also welcome an increase in Federal funding to address black spots, following the commitment of an additional $550 million over the next decade.

“NSW’s share of this money will increase around $14 million per year to between $23 and $27 million.

“While we welcome the additional funding, it is still well short of recent recommendations in the Inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, which recommended the Australian Government commit to a minimum $3-billion-a-year road safety fund.”

Cr Scott said the Federal Budget increases grant funding available under the Safer Communities Fund – critical for councils facing significant costs relating to preventive infrastructure such as bollards to protect crowded places.

“Councils across NSW have raised concerns about the high costs involved in ensuring the safety of their crowded places and LGNSW will continue to call for sustainable funding arrangements to assist councils in meeting these costs,” she said.

While the Federal Budget included a $100 million Environment Restoration Fund, details were light-on and it was not clear how much would be available to address the nation’s escalating waste and recycling crisis.

“This fund is also designed to protect Australia’s threatened species and restore the coasts and waterways,” Cr Scott said.

“Given the significant funding levels that will be required to implement the National Waste Policy Action Plan, Federal Labor has committed to a $60 million Recycling Fund exclusively for investment in innovative waste solutions, local government recycling facilities and new approaches to tackle food waste.

“We call on the Federal Government to match Labor’s commitments to recycling and the creation of a circular economy.”

Cr Scott said other key benefits for NSW councils included:

  • Funding of $453.1 million over two years to extend National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education – formerly due to end in 30 June 2020. This time-limited funding commitment compares with Federal Labor’s pledge to permanently fund pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds. Local government is the largest provider of early childhood education and care services in NSW with more than 300 services across the state.
  • $5.9 billion over two years from 2020-21 to extend the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), which had been scheduled to cease in June 2020. Some 70 NSW councils deliver direct aged care under this program, ranging from delivery of meals, home maintenance, domestic assistance, cleaning and social connection activities that help older people live independently for longer in their own homes.

“These announcements provide a certain level of funding certainty, which is important for councils and their ability to plan for the care needs of their communities given the rapid growth of our cities,” Cr Scott said.

Source: LGNSW