President’s column

This week, I have focused on ALGA's Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) campaign to restore the indexation of the grants as soon as possible, improve indexation in the longer term and ultimately increase the quantum of the grants. This is a key issue for ALGA and I am glad to say that the campaign has gathered momentum in recent weeks with a rapid growth in the number of councils passing resolutions to acknowledge the grants as important and valued Commonwealth funding and engaging their local Federal MPs about the indexation freeze. A total of 85 councils have now passed resolutions, however I want to reiterate the importance of having resolutions from as many councils as possible – in my view we need at least 500 of the 560 councils around Australia.

ALGA's FAGs Campaign Steering Committee, comprised of the Presidents of ALGA and the state and territory associations, convened at the beginning of the week to assess the campaign and decide on further actions to advance the campaign, including additional support for smaller regional councils. Every state and territory has been active in engaging councils in the campaign and I was able to highlight the positive response I had to my presentation to Victorian councils at MAV’s Summit on the Future of Local Government last week in which I addressed the campaign and urged councils to get behind it.   

An important part of the campaign is also gathering examples of the direct impact the indexation freeze has on councils. On-the-ground case studies are extremely powerful in helping our advocacy with the Federal Government. One council reported that the value of lost grants equates to the cost of resealing 23 kilometers of road. Another council noted that the loss in grants was equal to a cut in rate revenue of 8.8%. I encourage all councils to share their own examples of the impact of the freeze on FAGs indexation with their state and territory association and ALGA to assist our advocacy efforts.

I continue to meet with federal politicians, both backbenchers and Ministers, to highlight our campaign and reiterate the significant long-term impacts on councils and communities. Interestingly, I'm also finding sympathetic allies outside of our sector, effectively third party advocates, who value the role of Local Government and understand the need for enhanced funding. We need to identify these individuals and organisations and encourage their active participation in the conversation.

Through the FAGs campaign, we hope to broaden our support base and not only maintain, but strengthen this important direct funding relationship between the Federal and Local Government and encourage all councils to play their part.

On a final note, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of my colleague Mayor Barry Jarvis, President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania, Mayor of Dorset Council and Board member of ALGA. We have lost a strong leader in the Local Government sector. My thoughts and prayers are with Barry's family, the Association and the sector during this difficult period.

Mayor Troy Pickard