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Budget commitment welcomed

Rural Councils Victoria (RCV) has welcomed the Victorian Government’s $20 million budget commitment to a Rural Council Transformation Program to assist rural councils to identify and implement more efficient operational practices.

RCV Chair Cr Rob Gersch said the package contains a grant program to help rural councils across Victoria to set up collaborative procurement opportunities.

“Our submission to the 2018/2019 Victorian Budget highlighted the issue of financial sustainability of rural councils, and specifically requested funding for collaborative procurement and shared services projects,” said Cr Gersch.

“Due to large geographical areas, long distances to major population centres, and smaller populations, rural councils across Victoria consistently pay more per unit for products and services than metropolitan councils, further entrenching the inequality rural Victorians face in receiving equal and affordable services.

“This issue was also highlighted in the recently released Rural and Regional Council Sustainability Reform Project report commissioned by the Victorian Government.

“This project aimed to identify barriers to rural and regional council financial and organisational sustainability, understand the impacts of these barriers on the community, and develop reform options.

“While we are unsure at this stage which other recommendations from the Rural and Regional Council Sustainability Reform Project will be addressed as part of this funding package, we will continue to work with the Victorian Government to advocate for projects that assist to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of rural Victorian councils.

“The 2018/2019 Budget also commits $100 million over two years to the Fixing Country Roads fund, which will make a huge difference to rural councils that are continually advocating for greater funding for rural roads.

“This has been one of the major advocacy issues which RCV has lobbied for on behalf of our rural communities and we made it clear in our Budget submission that the roads that keep rural Victoria’s economy alive are falling apart.

“With small ratepayer populations, limited sources of revenue and thousands of kilometres of roads to maintain, rural councils are struggling to manage extensive road and bridge infrastructure.

“In addition to this fund the new Regional Roads Victoria (RRV), as a division of VicRoads, will oversee a $333 million spend on the regional road network.

“We hope RRV will direct appropriate funding to ensuring that rural Victorian roads get the increased investment they need.

“State Government support means the difference between a dangerous and poorly maintained road network, and a vibrant rural economy.”

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