Councils propose new road charging scheme

By: Jason Whittaker


By Brad Gardner Councils should be given access to the fuel excise if mass-distance charging is not introduced, the Australian Local

By Brad Gardner

Councils should be given access to the fuel excise if mass-distance charging is not introduced, the Australian Local Government Association says.

ALGA used its 2009 Roads and Transport Congress to propose a new method for councils to receive enough funds to maintain their road network.

Under ALGA’s plan, current funding practices will be altered so councils receive a fixed portion of the excise based on hypothecation.

"Local government receives no direct funding for the use of local roads by heavy vehicles," the communiqué from the Congress says of current practices.

If the plan is accepted, councils will be responsible for developing data to prove how much funds are needed.

ALGA President Geoff Lake says councils are responsible for 80 percent of Australia’s roads but maintaining them is becoming harder because of a lack of funding.

Lake says the actions of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and Treasury Secretary Ken Henry "suggest that there may be some fundamental changes in how we go about funding roads…"

COAG has agreed to push ahead with reforms to heavy vehicle charging, while Henry has supported changes to road user charges as part of his review of Australia’s tax system.

The Business Council of Australia last month weighed into the debate, calling for an accelerated introduction of mass-distance charging.

ALGA says the Rudd Government must keep councils informed of any decision to move to a new charging system.

"Local government must be consulted through the ALGA prior to the adoption of any proposed roads user charging system that applies to local roads," the communiqué says.

"Any road user charging arrangement must result in appropriate funding for local roads."

The Congress also agreed that the Roads to Recovery program should be made permanent and indexed in line with cost increases of roads and bridges.

Lake says it is important governments get road funding and asset management issues right because of the projected growth in the population levels and the freight task in the coming decades.

The communiqué also urged governments to take a whole-of-network approach to transport, including any plans to introduce a congestion charge.

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