ALGA welcomes national inquiry into local government sustainability

A new House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into local government sustainability has been welcomed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

With additional responsibilities costing billions of dollars being forced onto Australia’s 537 councils every year, ALGA expects this national inquiry will consider and address the financial challenges and funding shortfalls being faced by local governments.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said: “Councils are constantly being asked to do more – by their communities and state and territory governments – but aren’t being funded to deliver on these responsibilities.

“ALGA’s research shows that over the past decade local government expenditure per capita has flatlined, while spending by other governments has continued to rise,” Cr Scott said.

“It’s encouraging that the changing infrastructure and service delivery obligations of local government have been recognised and included in the inquiry’s terms of reference.

“By providing a wide range of free and low-cost services, we are delivering real cost of living relief in our local communities, but need more sustainable funding.

“ALGA looks forward to presenting to the Inquiry on the challenges Australian local governments are facing, and how we can work collaboratively to set councils and our communities up for success.”

Recent reports from the Local Government Association of Queensland and Local Government NSW have highlighted the alarming impact of cost shifting in these jurisdictions.

“New research from Queensland and New South Wales confirms a concerning trend of cost shifting to councils that we are seeing right across the country,” Cr Scott said.

Cr Scott said a key consideration for the inquiry would be the importance and effectiveness of untied federal funding to councils through federal Financial Assistance Grants.

“Over the past 30 years, we have seen Financial Assistance Grants to councils slip from one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue to just half a percent,” Cr Scott said.

“Regional and rural councils have been hit the hardest, and for many of these councils Financial Assistance Grants make up more than 20 per cent of their annual operating expenditure.

“We are committed to partnering with the Commonwealth, and our state and territory governments, to facilitate more affordable housing, better prepare for natural disasters, and deliver on our national emissions targets, but we can’t do this without funding support.”

Cr Scott said it was also encouraging to see the terms of reference for the inquiry include workforce challenges, with ALGA’s research showing nine out of every 10 councils are experiencing jobs and skills shortages.