Tony Abbott’s assault on road spending in rural and regional Australia has begun in earnest, with his government today announcing the first stage of $1 billion in cuts to Commonwealth road funding to local councils.
Today’s Government announcement of $2.3 billion in Financial Assistance Grants to local government confirms that councils all over the country will receive a cut in real terms this year, because of Mr Abbott’s short-sighted decision to freeze annual indexation of the grants, which are used for roads and other council spending.
Just last week councils began confirming that they had already begun to cut back on road maintenance because of these cuts, which will place unreasonable burdens on councils Budgets and compromise road safety standards.
The freeze comes on top of bungling Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss’s inept failure to secure continued funding to continue the $2.1 billion Roads to Recovery scheme, which expired on June 30.
Despite bi-partisan support for Roads to Recovery, Mr Truss forgot to put legislation to the Senate allowing for the scheme’s continuation prior to the June 30 expiry date.
Despite all of his pre-election promises on road spending, Mr Abbott has failed to start work on any new road projects that were not initiated by the previous Labor Government.
As if his own incompetence were not enough, his cuts to local government funding mean councils will struggle to maintain local infrastructure to proper standards – all because of Mr Abbott’s cuts-at-any-cost approach to governing Australia.
Cuts to Financial Assistance Grants will leave local councils worse off with less money to maintain roads as well as deliver local community services.
Not only will there be a financial burden on the rate payer to fund Mr Abbott’s cuts, local government will have to look at other ways of managing the loss of money to their budgets including staffing cuts, reducing vital services and increasing charges.