22 June 2021
I am pleased to report around $1.5 billion funding for local government announced in today’s State Budget, the result of many months of hard work by councils and Local Government NSW advocating for financial backing to lead local communities in an economic recovery and create new jobs.
As President of LGNSW, I was pleased to see our advocacy efforts pay off with a Budget that will help councils to not only address ongoing challenges in the wake of multiple natural disasters but to also create stimulus for jobs growth.
Of course, we do not live in a perfect world and we didn’t get everything we asked for, but there were a lot of positives.
Let’s start with good news: The NSW Government is providing a one-off payment to fully fund the increase in local government’s 2021-22 Emergency Services Levy (ESL) contributions.
This payment will ensure your council pays the same amount in 2021-22 as it did in the 2019-20 financial year pre-COVID-19.
We will continue to pursue legislative reform around this crippling levy on councils and push for the NSW Government to implement the intention of the Parliament, which would enable councils to fund the ESL outside of the rate peg as a separate line item on rates notices.
Here are some other announcements that will bring improvements and create jobs in local government:
- $550 million granted directly to councils and organisations to fund infrastructure and foster economic growth through Restart NSW funding in 2021-22, set to create about 8,000 jobs
- More than $2 billion to almost 3,000 regional infrastructure projects, which will inject cash and create jobs in local communities and includes a Regional Job Creation Fund set to generate 5,000 new jobs
- $240 million for 2021-22 that will improve road and connectivity conditions and help support jobs through the Fixing Local Roads and Bridges program, a significant win for councils that will improve road and connectivity conditions and help support jobs
- Almost $332 million in 2021-22 for road safety investment such as audio tactile markings, wide centre lines and crash barriers. This is a big win for regional road safety.
Something important to many councils, and to me personally, is the environment, so I was very happy to see $490 million over the next four years to increase the uptake of electric vehicle purchases by cutting taxes and reducing barriers for their use, such as increased charging stations.
With the transport sector contributing about 18 per cent of New South Wales’ total greenhouse gases, this is a major breakthrough and reflects LGNSW advocacy and motions at our 2019 annual conference from Mosman, Shoalhaven City and Liverpool City councils.
On the critical issue of affordable housing, something local government and LGNSW has been increasingly vocal about, I am pleased to see $852 million in capital expenditure in 2021-22 to support the delivery of social and affordable housing and capital upgrades across the State.
In terms of job-creating infrastructure, local roads, cycleways and footpaths are set to create an estimated 12,000 jobs.
The Budget also includes a welcome new $250 million fund to support upgrades to regional roads as part of the Regional Road Transfer and Road Classification Review.
This funding shows the Government listening to our calls to act on its previous promise to take back 15,000km of roads from councils.
We are making significant headway when it comes to the growing waste and recycling crisis, with the Budget committing $149 million in 2021-22 to implement its Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041.
LGNSW has been leading the call for the NSW Government to act on this issue since the launch of our Save Our Recycling action plan in early 2019, and this announcement is largely a result of our advocacy efforts.
The Government’s strategy is still lacking key elements of our proposed plan, and rest assured we will continue to press them on issues such as reinvestment of the $750 million it collects annually through the Waste Levy into the sector and greater education around proper recycling methods.
There is much more to unpack in this year’s State Budget, but among other significant outcomes for councils resulting from LGNSW advocacy:
- $268 million in response to the Bushfire Inquiry, bringing the total to $460 million with Commonwealth funding, including implementation of a new National Fire Danger Ratings System. This will build resilience in our regions and is a key outcome of LGNSW advocacy
- $64 million over four years for regional resilience through the “Future Ready Regions” strategy, which is consistent with LGNSW advocacy and policy positions on drought resilience and in line with 2020 Conference resolutions from Tenterfield and Warren Shire councils
- An extra $380 million over four years to help expedite investment into the State’s five renewable energy zones and smooth the way for an increase in solar, wind and storage projects, in line with LGNSW’s climate change statement
- $109.5 million for 25 child and adolescent mental health response teams to cover every local health district across NSW, which directly addresses our recommendation in the rural and regional health inquiry submission
- $150 million in 2021-22 to extend the free preschool program for NSW families for the two years before school – LGNSW will continue to push for funding relief to be extended to all early learning service types
- $80 million to establish new multi-day walks across NSW, which LGNSW advocated directly to Environment Minister Matt Kean following a resolution from Shoalhaven City Council at the LGNSW Annual Conference 2020
- A $27.9 million commitment over four years to fund the expansion of the NSW Drug Court to Dubbo in an effort to tackle the ice epidemic that has particularly afflicted regional communities.
These outcomes will contribute to councils’ goal of leading local recovery and building future resilience for their communities, and I congratulate the NSW Government on handing down this Budget.
I also congratulate all our member councils that provide the motions that guided our advocacy priorities and supported our efforts so strongly.
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