Gillespie advocates for grant changes instead of mergers in council reforms

Federal member for Lyne Dr Gillespie has voiced his “personal concerns” over the state government’s proposed merger between Dungog and Gloucester.

In a speech made to the Federation Chamber in Canberra last Thursday February 4, Dr Gillespie said he would be making a personal submission to the state government’s inquiry despite having no say on the state issue as the federal member.

“If the NSW Government wants to be making councils like Gloucester and Dungog Fit for the Future... putting two struggling councils together won’t make things that much better. What it should do is consider changing the formula it itself has developed for the NSW Grants Commission and how it allocates federal Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) it receives from the federal government."

Dr Gillespie said the current system is too skewed towards population figures at the expense of infrastructure challenges.

“There are so many metropolitan could almost throw a cricket ball across a council area,” he said, adding that they receive significant funds under the current FAG scheme for infrastructure (sporting facilities, road networks, etc) that is already there and provided by the NSW Government. 

“Our FAG should be allocated not on the basis of the population alone which it is currently skewed towards, but on the basis of the infrastructure and tasks the local councils are challenged with, particularly in the significant road networks that they must manage not only for their local population but also as key freight routes that are important to the nation’s primary production."

FAGs are currently distributed according to population, and an identified local road component which is distributed between the states and territories according to fixed historical shares. Councils spend the grants according to local priorities.

Dr Gillespie encouraged all locals to “make their thoughts known, participate in the inquiry process and I am hopeful that a sensible outcome will be reached in this process.”