The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has established its priorities for the year ahead, with the restoration of indexation of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) the top agenda item for the ALGA Board.
The Board met in Canberra last Thursday and Friday for a two day strategic planning meeting and reviewed ALGA's current strategic plan, and in light of current Federal issues impacting on local government, refocused efforts on four key issues.
The focus throughout 2015-16 will be on Financial Assistance Grants, the Reform of the Federation and Taxation White Papers, the future of natural disaster funding and developing ALGA's election campaign platform in the lead up to the 2016 election.
The decision to freeze indexation of Financial Assistance Grants in the May 2014 Budget for three years will see $925 million stripped from local government by 2017-18.
These grants are a vital part of the revenue base of all councils and they are used to help fund essential local services and infrastructure.
It is also important that local government's voice is heard in the debate on both the Federation and Taxation White Papers as both issues may potentially impact on the established Federal-local government relationship.
Our two spheres of government have strong ties, with Federal funds helping local government provide valuable services in the local community.
Possible changes to the Federation should strengthen this tie, not sever it.
Any reform of the Taxation system must also acknowledge and maintain the integrity of local government's rates base which is so important for local communities.
ALGA will continue to be involved in the debate surrounding natural disaster funding, and in advocacy for the importance of investment in mitigation, not just recovery after disasters.
The Federal Government's response in the coming months to the Productivity Commission's report into natural disaster funding arrangements may have profound implications for local government and its ability to support communities.
The final priority area for the ALGA Board is to develop a policy platform for local government in the lead up to the 2016 election.
This will no doubt capture the key priority issues the Board is focused on for the next year, along with a range of other issues such as investment to improve the productivity of local roads and to increase local opportunities through enhanced community infrastructure.
Mayor Troy Pickard