Next week at the ALGA Board Annual General Meeting in Toowoomba, a new ALGA President will be elected for a two-year term making this my final President’s column.
The past two years have certainly been eventful. As well as welcoming a new Prime Minister, a new Infrastructure and Transport Minister, and a new Minister for Regional Development and for Local Government and Territories, the local government sector also claimed its biggest win in securing an extra $1.105 billion in Roads to Recovery funding in June last year, the biggest single funding injection local government has ever received from the Federal Government.
One of the major factors behind the agreement of the Opposition and Government to announce the extra Roads to Recovery funding was the sector’s campaign on the Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) indexation freeze. When I began my tenure as ALGA President, the issue at the top of my agenda was to restore the indexation of FAGs. The pause on FAGs indexation implemented in the 2014-15 budget was unexpected and had a severe impact on councils. Our campaign as a sector made it clear that the restoration of FAGs indexation was a political priority, and this year’s Federal budget and election confirmed that the indexation pause will end– another success for local government.
There have been many other successes that we’ve had as a sector over the past 24 months, more than I can name here, and it has been an honour and a privilege to serve as ALGA President during this exciting time.
Looking ahead, I see some important challenges for local government, particularly the need for the sector to secure stable and sustainable funding from the Federal Government. In this regard, ALGA is currently reviewing the existing mechanisms for Commonwealth funding of local government and identifying opportunities for reform to ensure that the funding is sustainable.
In particular, ALGA is looking at the option of advocating for a fixed share of Commonwealth taxation. In addition to a tax share, the sector will need to look at setting a guaranteed base so that revenue cannot fall below a certain level (such as a percentage of taxation share), and look at ensuring appropriate flexibility within the funding envelope around how those funds may be expended.
These are issues which must be vigorously explored by the sector over the coming years.
Finally, I’d like to thank the ALGA Board for their support and the hardworking and highly competent team at the ALGA secretariat. Our achievements over the past two years have been a team effort and we have worked effectively together on crafting the messages and building the arguments. I wish the incoming ALGA President and Board every success in advancing ALGA's strategic agenda.
Mayor Troy Pickard