Conflict over government funding for roads

Image of road sign to Lismore

Photo Chris Dobney

Member for Lismore Thomas George has criticised Lismore City councillors for raising the issue of inadequate state and federal budgets for roads in Lismore.

It is a disgrace that Lismore City councillors want to blame cost shifting for the lack of management towards road maintenance,’ said Mr George.

‘Lismore City Council receives its funding based on the same ratio given to all councils across the state. Council needs to take responsibility for its own budget and how they manage funding provided to them.’

Funding inadequate

Lismore mayor Isaac Smith has fought back saying he is ‘very disappointed to see our state member attacking Council on an issue that affects all levels of government’.

‘The formula used by the state government to fund councils for their maintenance of state roads, all those coming into town, is not adequate and hasn’t been for decades. Half of the complaints I receive are about the state roads, so that makes it very much a shared problem.

Smith has acknowledged that Council needs to look at its own operations but highlights that they ‘also need the state and federal government to stop the cost shifting to local government, which is estimated at $670 million a year by local government NSW.’

‘Our costs continue to rise faster than the funding they are putting behind us each year.

‘A good example of giving with one hand while taking with the other was the boost in federal black-spot funding in the past two years. This was very welcome, but this has unfortunately been offset by the freeze in federal assistance grants over the past three years, which the NSW grants commission has told us cost NSW councils $75 million dollars.’

According to Mayor Smith, twenty years ago the federal government allocated around one per cent of its spending through these grants to councils; however, this has reduced to just 0.4 per cent.

This reduction ‘is putting more pressure on councils to fill that gap,’ continued Mayor Smith.

Flood recovery

While Mr George has said that following the March 2017 flood event, Lismore City Council received significant funding to specifically assist with fixing road infrastructure following the natural disaster Mayor Smith has criticised the the way disaster recovery funding is handled.

Councils are often left waiting for more than a year for road and infrastructure funding following floods to be provided by the state and federal governments.

We need reform in the emergency management space that gets this money back to councils soon after a disaster so our community is not left waiting,’ said Mayor Smith.

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