Call for extra council funds

THE Federal Opposition is calling on the Turnbull Government to bring forward one quarter of its Financial Assistance Grants funding for local councils.

Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for Regional Communities, Stephen Jones outlined Labor's stance on the issue on Tuesday, predicting bringing forward close to $620 million from the 2018/19 program into the 2017/18 financial year would help councils invest in the local projects that support local jobs, such as roads and community infrastructure projects. 

The grants program has been a divisive issue for local government after the Abbott Government decided in 2014 to halt the annual increase to Federal funding to local councils as part of efforts to curb spending and bring the budget back to surplus.

"The government's cuts have meant local councils across Australia have been forced to reduce services and increase fees for important things like community care, library opening hours, waste transfer station operations, childcare and community kindergarten," Mr Shorten said. 

"Local government needs the capacity to plan for the future and make strategic decisions about infrastructure and growing service priorities." 

Although welcoming the Opposition's stance, Gannawarra Shire Council director of corporate services, Tom O'Reilly believes the lifting of the grants program's three-year indexation freeze would be more beneficial.

Estimates completed by council in 2014 predicted the halting of grant increases would cost the municipality $465,000 by 2017, with the lifting of the freeze to provide greater support for local services and projects.

"Lifting the freeze on indexation would being more money into our municipality and therefore providing greater benefits to our community," Mr O'Reilly said. 

"Council fully supports the lifting of the three-year indexation freeze and any progress towards this direction would certainly be welcomed by council."

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