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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Pub Test: Dissecting election promises on local roads

Federal Liberal Candidate for Gilmore Andrew Constance has told ACM that local roads funding will be his top priority because of community concerns, and the poor state of some of the state's South Coast roads saying "I have listened to the locals about the state of their roads, and I intend to provide strong and consistent advocacy on this issue." "Structurally, the roads have fallen to pieces and a major resealing program is required; not just pothole repairs." the candidate and once longstanding Minister for Roads in NSW told ACM reporters. Funding of the maintenance of local roads comes from local rates in the General Fund. Separate to other rates such as Sewer, Water and Environment the General Fund rates are set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), the independent pricing regulator for water, energy, public transport and local government in NSW. To ensure Council's don't overcharge on their rates IPART conducts reviews across water, energy, public transport and local government and, in the case of the rates, sets an annual allowable percentage increase. Usually around 2%. Eurobodalla, like most Councils, has cried poor over these constraints saying such restrictions result in a backlog of maintenance and renewal. This claim was the basis of their successful bid to have a special rate variation allowed to address what they called an "Infrastructure Backlog". Identifying a loophole Eurobodalla Council has also been able to bolster up its General Fund that pays for asset maintenance by charging the maximum allowable rate for water and sewer and then annually giving itself a 'dividend' from these funds. The bottom line is that the NSW Government via IPART has limited the revenues available to Councils and this becomes more evident as asset maintenance slides and replacement timelines are extended beyond standards. Eurobodalla has experienced several floods and Federal money has been forthcoming via grants under Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements via support for affected local councils to help with the costs of cleaning up and restoring damaged essential public assets. But what of the potholes that Andrew Constance intends "provide strong and consistent advocacy on" should he arrive in Federal Parliament? In 2021-22 the Australian Government said they will provide $2.6 billion in Financial Assistance Grants funding to councils. This includes $1.3 billion which was brought forward from the 2021-22 estimate and paid to States and Territory Governments in 2020-21. The remainder is $1.326 billion in 2021-22. FAGs continue to comprise two components: general purpose assistance grants and untied local roads grants. The allocation of these funds is based on an equitable process of an annual assessment provided by each Council that indicates the overall asset base, the value of the asset base including sealed and unsealed roads and then the condition of that asset base. A FAG contribution is then calculated to assist in bringing those assets identified as POOR to a Satisfactory condition. All of the Councils across the nation know and understand this process and know well that it can't, and should not be supplemented by a Member of Parliament 'advocating' other than to present the report at hand. Andrew Constance told ACM "I will be arguing for additional funding beyond the Roads to Recovery Program allocations." As part of the Local and State Government Road Safety Package announced in the 2019-20 Budget, the Australian Government committed an additional $100 million per year to the Roads to Recovery Program from 2019-20. From 2013-14 to 2023-24, the Government will provide $6.2 billion under the Roads to Recovery Program, with an ongoing commitment of $500 million each year. On 6 November 2019, the Government announced $138.9 million additional Roads to Recovery funding in the 2020 calendar year for the 128 Local Government Areas eligible for the Drought Communities Programme Extension. All Drought Extension funding has been paid to the relevant councils. To ensure independence and transparency Roads to Recovery Program allocations for the councils in each jurisdiction are determined on the basis of the recommendations of the Local Government Grants Commissions in each state and the Northern Territory for the roads component of the Financial Assistance Grants. Eurobodalla Council is to receive a total of $ 5,196,461 in the current period with Shoalhaven receiving $10,709,218 and Bega Valley Shire Council receiving $7,331,897. In telling ACM "I'm coming across potholes and problems on every road that I drive on. They need urgent attention and I intend to make road repairs, my priority," it is unclear as to how the Liberal candidate might be able to do anymore than is currently being done without seeking a special dispensation for the electorate above and beyond those handed out fairly to the other 128 councils across the state of NSW, and beyond.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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