Local councils have welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to lift a freeze on the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants, announced in the 2017-18 Federal Budget last week.
Financial Assistance Grants are a vital source of funding for councils, who are able to spend the grants according to their community priorities.
Moira Shire Mayor Gary Cleveland welcomed the change.
‘‘The Financial Assistance Grants are an important source of funding for councils like Moira Shire and we are able to use that funding on community priorities,’’ he said.
‘‘The grants in the 2017-2018 budget are worth $9.9million to Moira Shire and we plan to use it to fund the number of services we provide to the community.
‘‘We are thankful the Federal Government has listened to local councils in their pleas to end the freeze on financial grants indexing.’’
Cr Cleveland also welcomed confirmation that the Roads to Recovery funding would extend for another two years, which is used to maintain and upgrade roads across the shire, such as the recent works on Parnell Rd.
Berrigan Shire corporate services director Matt Hansen said the announcement was welcome, but councils were still concerned about lost funding.
‘‘It’s certainly pleasing the indexation pause has been stopped, but the lasting effects will continue to be felt,’’ he said.
‘‘However, the indexation won’t be backdated, so we’re still 13 per cent behind where we should be if that indexation had continued.’’
Mr Hansen said council was looking to move forward and plan for the future with the expected additional funding.
‘‘We’ve got our 2017-2018 council budget, which will be presented at the council meeting (today), but unfortunately the Federal Budget announcement has come too late for us to include it in the budget for the coming year,’’ he said.
‘‘In the near future there will hopefully be a chance for us to review it, and see what we can do with that money.’’
Mr Hansen said during the indexation plateau of the past few years, councils had lost out on increases, which would have built on the numbers from the previous years.
‘‘With the pause, we’ve also had to make some tough decisions, including to cut some staff positions to reflect the pause.’’
Since a freeze on indexation of the grants began in 2014, Victorian communities have missed out on about $200million for their local roads and services, the Municipal Association of Victoria said.
‘‘The Municipal Association of Victoria is pleased that the Federal Government has delivered on its promise to ‘end the freeze’ on Financial Assistance Grants indexation,’’ MAV president Mary Lalios said.
‘‘This will be good news for councils, particularly councils in rural areas as their communities have been hurting as a result of the lost funding.
‘‘The grants help councils to meet the costs of providing more than 100 essential services to local communities and maintaining $80billion worth of community infrastructure.
‘‘However, councils will still be left playing catch-up as they recover from the $200million that has been lost since the freeze began.’’