Local Government has met unprecedented challenges over the past 18 months to emerge as a key driver of local jobs and economic recovery.
Opening the 27th National General Assembly of Local Government, Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) President Linda Scott told more than 750 delegates that it had been an extraordinary period for councils around Australia.
Drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and floods had threatened community resilience and strained local government resources.
“Councils have been tested like never before,” she told delegates.
“We have risen to the occasion, pivoting resources to protect people’s health, provide support and deliver services needed to keep communities safe and support community wellbeing.”
“Having focused on the challenges we faced over the past year –and given the lessons that emerge from this period – the task now before us is the role we play in supporting and sustaining recovery at the community level.
“This is particularly important in regional areas where councils are major employers and where council investment plays a relatively greater role in driving local economies and local job creation.”
Cr Scott said Coronavirus measures, lockdowns and closures had all had significant impacts on local government finances, with many running down their reserves.
“These developments have served to highlight financial sustainability as a matter for all councils regardless of size,” she said.
“Financial support from other levels of government, particularly the Financial Assistance Grants provided by the Commonwealth, is essential for councils and their communities going forward.”
Last month’s Federal Budget was very positive for local governments to help deliver small local infrastructure projects, create local employment, support community wellbeing, and help stimulate local economies.
A Motion by the Forbes Shire Council (NSW) calling on the Federal Government to increase Financial Assistance Grants to one percent of Commonwealth tax revenue was unanimously endorsed at today’s National General Assembly.
“City, regional and remote councils all stand united on this issue,” Cr Scott said.
A key focus of the sector moving forward is strengthening the capacity of each council and growing local employment.
“The best way to do that is to increase long-term secure funding to improve the financial sustainability of councils and maximise their ability to increase and sustain jobs in their local areas,” Cr Scott said.
She said the decision to exclude local government from the National Cabinet – created after the abolition of COAG – was a lost opportunity to ensure a local focus on economic recovery and jobs.
“I strongly believe that a full and lasting recovery from the pandemic is going to require all three levels of government working together – and leaving local government out of the National Cabinet just does not make sense.
“I will be continuing our strong advocacy for ALGA membership of National Cabinet – and I will be making this point, among others, when I address the National Press Club tomorrow,” Cr Scott said.
The 27th National General Assembly of Local Government is being held at the National Convention Centre Canberra (NCCC) from 21-23 June