News

Submission to Inquiry into local government sustainability

On behalf of all Australian councils, ALGA lodged a comprehensive, evidence-based submission to Federal Parliament’s inquiry into local government sustainability.

We made five key recommendations to the Parliamentary Committee, with our number one priority being increasing untied federal funding for local government to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

Read submission

President’s Update – 15 July 2024

Highly successful 2024 NGA

It was wonderful to welcome more than 1200 of you to our historic 30th National General Assembly in Canberra.

There were so many memorable highlights, including the historic first public speech of Australia’s new Governor General Her Excellency the Honourable Sam Mostyn AC.

During the week, we also heard from Federal Ministers the Hon Catherine King MP and the Hon Kristy McBain MP, as well as Shadow Ministers the Hon Senator Bridget McKenzie and the Hon Darren Chester MP, and many outstanding keynotes and panellists.

I was honoured to speak at the National Press Club on 2 July, where I highlighted how councils improve the lives of Australians every day in many ways that other levels of government simply can’t.

We also considered a record number of your council motions this year, and I look forward to bringing these NGA resolutions to our next ALGA Board meeting, and using them in our federal advocacy.

Win! Second round of HSP funding

At the Australian Council of Local Government Forum on 5 July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the second stream of the Government’s Housing Support Program (HSP) is now open for applications from state, territory and local governments.

The $450 million Community Enabling Infrastructure Stream will provide funding for enabling infrastructure and community amenity projects, and applications are due by 16 August.

We advocated for this new funding program, and I urge you to think about the shovel-ready projects your councils can nominate.

New reports released

During the NGA, I was delighted to officially launch the 2024 National State of the Assets report Future proofing our communities.

Prepared with the support of IPWEA, the report showed since 2021 the amount of local government buildings and facilities in poor condition has dropped from 10 per cent to eight per cent.

We also released new research from SGS Economics and Planning, which shows a sustainable local government sector could boost Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to $7 billion per year.

National housing summit

Finally, a reminder to register for ALGA’s inaugural National Local Government Housing Summit at the Adelaide Town Hall on Friday, 16 August. This is an important opportunity to have local government’s voice heard on a complex but pressing issue across the nation.

We will be releasing a more detailed program this week which will focus on the key role we can play addressing Australia’s affordable housing crisis.

I hope to see you there!

New SGS research about local government sustainability

SGS Economics and Planning partner Marcus Spiller launched new research about local government financial sustainability in Australia at the 2024 NGA on 3 July.

The report analyses long-term trends in financial sustainability of Australia’s 537 councils, and was prepared to support ALGA’s submission to the inquiry into local government sustainability.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Local governments could boost Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to $7 billion per year if councils were sustainably funded by the Federal Government.
  • A $1 billion dollar investment in local government road maintenance will deliver a $3.5 billion increase in real GDP.
  • $250 million invested in better supply and curation of parks and gardens will result in a $900 million GDP boost.
  • Efficient design of regulatory processes within councils can yield an annual benefit of $1.6 million. If realized across Australia’s 537 councils, this would increase GDP
    by $1.7 billion.
  • Increased block transfers of funds from Commonwealth and states to local government can save $235.64 million in administrative costs and increase GDP by
    $300 million each year.
  • Increase retention of local government workers can save up to $424.5 million in administration costs and boost GDP by $600 million each year.

Download the full report here.

President’s Update – 1 July 2024

Local government inquiry hearing

On behalf of Australia’s 537 councils, I was delighted to appear before the Parliamentary inquiry into local government sustainability in Canberra last week.

During the hearing, I highlighted new ALGA research showing local governments could boost Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to $7 billion per year, and create more liveable communities if councils were sustainably funded by the Federal Government.

Due to be released this week, the research shows a $1 billion annual investment in local government roads would increase Australia’s GDP by $3.5 billion per year, and an extra $350 million for parks and open space could increase GDP by $900 million per year.

With more responsibilities being forced on to Australia’s councils, I also highlighted a range of solutions to consider and address the financial challenges and funding shortfalls currently faced by local governments.

As part of our comprehensive, evidence-based submission we made five key recommendations to the committee, with the number one priority being increasing untied Financial Assistance Grants for local government to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

(L-R): ALGA President Cr Linda Scott, Chair of House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Development, Infrastructure and Transport Luke Gosling and ALGA CEO Amy Crawford at Parliament House.

Win! Early payment of FA Grants

In an advocacy win, the Government responded to our call and delivered an early payment of Financial Assistance Grants to councils last week.

This untied funding is critical for councils, and bringing forward 85 per cent of our 2024-25 allocations will greatly assist with budget planning and certainty for the new financial year.

We appreciate every dollar of federal funding we receive, which helps to build and maintain local pools, libraries, cultural centres, cycleways and skate parks that are vital for vibrant, liveable communities.

Meeting with WA Minister Hannah Beazley

I was honoured to meet with Western Australia’s Minister for Local Government Hannah Beazley in Canberra last Thursday.

We discussed the importance of emergency management support for our councils, particularly with increased frequency of emergency events.

We also talked about the Government’s local government inquiry and the long-term needs of councils linked to sustainable funding.

(L-R): ALGA President Cr Linda Scott, WA Local Government Minister Hannah Beazley and ALGA CEO Amy Crawford.

National housing summit

I’m delighted to invite all councils and local government leaders to ALGA’s National Local Government Housing Summit on Friday, 16 August.

The inaugural national summit, to be held at the Adelaide Town Hall, will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders and experts to discuss critical issues to deliver housing across the nation with the aim of forging actionable strategies to support local governments.

NGA countdown

Finally, I can’t wait to see you in Canberra for our historic 30th National General Assembly in Canberra starting tomorrow.

A record 1230 mayors, shire presidents and councillors from across Australia will converge in the capital for our annual conference at the National Convention Centre.

This year’s NGA will also lead into the Australian Council of Local Government on Friday.

Councils to boost national economy by $7 billion with sustainable funding

Local governments could boost Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to $7 billion per year and create more liveable communities if councils were sustainably funded by the Federal Government, a Parliamentary Committee was told today.

New research, due to be released by ALGA next week, shows a $1 billion annual investment in local government roads would increase Australia’s GDP by $3.5 billion per year, and an extra $350 million for parks and open space could increase GDP by $900 million per year.

ALGA highlighted the research while appearing at a House of Representatives inquiry into local government sustainability, along with a number of key reforms to show how local communities could grow and thrive with more federal funding and better partnerships in the future.

President Cr Linda Scott said: “With extra responsibilities being forced on to Australia’s 537 councils every year, we highlighted a range of solutions to consider and address the financial challenges and funding shortfalls currently faced by local governments.

“This inquiry presents a valuable opportunity to outline the value and services we are delivering in our communities and to highlight the much-needed funding reforms local government needs to be sustainable.”

As part of its comprehensive, evidence-based submission to the inquiry, ALGA made five key recommendations to the committee, with the number one priority being increasing untied Financial Assistance Grants for local government to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

Cr Scott said the best way to support increased efficiency and productivity in Australia was increasing federal Financial Assistance Grants so councils get our “fair share” of national tax revenue.

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

“We are committed to partnering with the Commonwealth, and 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 greater support.”

Read ALGA’s submission to the national local government inquiry.

Photo caption: (L-R): ALGA President Cr Linda Scott, Chair of House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Development, Infrastructure and Transport Luke Gosling MP and ALGA CEO Amy Crawford at Parliament House.

Countdown to 2024 NGA

A record number of local government leaders are expected to attend the historic 30th National General Assembly in Canberra from 2-4 July.

Around 1200 mayors, shire presidents and councillors from across Australia will converge in the capital for the annual conference, being held at the National Convention Centre.

This year’s theme is Building Community Trust, which aims to explore the critical importance of trust in governments, between governments, its institutions and citizens, acknowledging trust as a fundamental building block of our nation’s democracy.

There is also a new addition to the 2024 program, with four concurrent listening sessions providing you with the opportunity to have your say about federal policies affecting our communities.  These sessions will be held directly after the Regional Forum on before the NGA officially commences on Wednesday morning.

This year’s NGA will lead into the Australian Council of Local Government on Friday 5 July, and ALGA is thrilled to once again be partnering with the Federal Government to host the ACLG event.

More information here.

Infrastructure Management System shutdown

Councils are advised the Federal Government’s Infrastructure Management System (IMS) portal will be unavailable from 11 pm on Wednesday 31 July until 12 pm on Monday 19 August, to cleanse and migrate data to the new Reporting and Program Management (RPM) portal.

Please note, during this time local governments will not be able to access IMS.

Land transport programs to be affected include Roads to Recovery, Black Spots, Bridges Renewal, Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity and Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Programs.

For Roads to Recovery from 1 – 31 July 2024, councils will be able to enter projects to the work schedule in IMS and submit project mapping to have projects assessed by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communication and the Arts. This is important to receive the first quarterly payment which is expected to be paid in late August 2024.

The Roads to Recovery team will communicate directly with councils about the timing and access to IMS to support the first payment for the 2024-29 funding period.

If you have any questions regarding the RPM program or shutdown, contact RPMtaskforce@infrastructure.gov.au

Dumped tyres costing councils $6.5 million a year

The removal and management of illegally dumped tyres in Australia is costing local governments more than $6.5 million a year, according to new research supported by ALGA.

These findings were outlined in the Stockpiling and illegal dumping of tyres report prepared for Tyre Stewardship Australia, and produced with assistance from ALGA members.

The report, released in April this year, also found local governments cleaned up an estimated 300,000 end-of-life tyres in 2022-23. with an average cost of $22 per tyre.  These costs can be up to $31 per tyre in regional areas.

The study showed these costs were almost triple the average cost of disposing of a passenger car tyre, collected through retailers, which is about $7.60.

Councils on the urban fringes are dealing with the most illegally dumped tyres, which is adding to their financial pressure to build community infrastructure and services.

ALGA supports a national mandatory product stewardship scheme as the current voluntary scheme is not functioning properly around Australia.

Read more information about the Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme.

Submission for shutdown of 3G mobile network

ALGA has provided a submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport’s inquiry into the shutdown of Australia’s 3G mobile network.

The submission highlighted many councils located outside of metropolitan areas or urban centres and are faced with the challenges of living further away from key infrastructure, economic opportunities, and in some cases reliable mobile and digital connectivity.

ALGA strongly encouraged the Federal Government to undertake a targeted education campaign to support communities that will be most vulnerable after the 3G shutdown and who will not have upgraded to newer handsets.

ALGA also urged the committee to recommend that mobile network operators (MNO) work with local governments to identify how many active 3G handsets and devices there are in regions, and how many community members may be impacted.

Read submission

President’s Update – 17 June 2024

Local government inquiry update

We look forward to presenting to Parliament’s inquiry into local government sustainability after recently lodging our evidence-based submission.

This inquiry is a valuable opportunity to outline the value and services we are delivering in our communities and highlight the funding reforms our sector needs to be sustainable.

I encourage you to continue to engage with your local federal members and senators about the need for financial sustainability, including the importance of restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

Together we can highlight how our communities can grow and thrive with more sustainable funding and better partnerships into the future.

LGNZ Infrastructure Symposium

On behalf of Australia’s councils, it was an honour to speak at the Local Government New Zealand Infrastructure Symposium via Zoom last week.

We share a close bond with the Kiwis, as ALGA and LGNZ have enjoyed a strong Trans-Tasman working relationship over many years.

I highlighted our nation couldn’t survive without the vast network of local roads and community infrastructure – managed by our councils – that Australians use and depend on every day.

I also outlined the recent advocacy wins we have achieved to secure more funding for councils to maintain and revitalise our vital local assets.

National Press Club address

Finally, a limited number of tickets are still available for my National Press Club speech on Tuesday 2 July.

To celebrate our 30th year of gathering in Canberra, I will deliver a televised lunchtime address to highlight the importance of future-proofing local government in Australia.

I hope to see you there.

Pre-Budget submission 2024-25

ALGA submitted a pre-Budget 2024-25 submission to the Federal Government.

Investing in local government as a trusted partner with the Commonwealth will allow us to provide the services and facilities local communities need to more effectively and efficiently prepare for the future.

The submission outlines a three-tiered approach to partnerships that will build a stronger nation – now and into the future.

ALGA is a proud signatory to the National Housing Accord and National Agreement on Closing the Gap, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Government on new partnerships for the benefit of all Australians.

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NGA exhibition sold out

The exhibition booths for the 2024 National General Assembly in Canberra are sold-out.

However, there are still some last-minute sponsorship opportunities still available, including for the new listening sessions – so don’t miss your chance to be there.

Held at the National Convention Centre, the NGA is an opportunity for local government service providers to engage with more than 1,000 mayors, shire presidents, CEOs and senior council staff.

The NGA will officially open with a welcome drinks ceremony in the Exhibition Hall from 5pm on Tuesday 2 July, and the exhibition area will run until Friday 5 July.

For more information, click here.

Extreme space weather

On behalf of Australia’s councils, ALGA attended a special exercise from 22-23 May in Adelaide to prepare for an extreme space weather event.

Hosted by the Australian Government, Exercise Aurora 2024 was developed to allow Australia – and local governments – to plan for future space weather events, such as a geomagnetic storm that occurred on May 11 this year.

These types of solar activities have the potential to disrupt communications across the nation for differing lengths of time.

ALGA attended the event to remind emergency agencies, and other levels of government, that during a communications black-out, councils can be a key player in messaging, support, and coordination of emergency services, including through local radio.

A detailed plan, based on the exercise, is being developed between the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, and the Department of Home Affairs.

More information on the historic space weather gathering can be found here.

Be prepared for EOFY cyber attacks

Small businesses can access free training to protect themselves against cyber attacks, especially during the end of the financial year period.

The latest statistics show 43 per cent of cyber attacks target small businesses, and a single attack can cost an average of $46,000.

The simple online cyber security training is now available through Cyber Wardens, an initiative of the Council of the Small Business Organisations Australia and funded by the Federal Government.  The program is self-paced and quick to complete.

There is also an EOFY guide and other resources to complement online.

Enrol today.

Submission to Landfill Gas Method Options Paper

ALGA has provided a submission to the Reform Options paper for the Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) Scheme Landfill Gas Methods 2024.

The submission said councils are at the forefront of dealing with climate change impacts and are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

ALGA also said for the ACCU Scheme to be effective, it must have integrity and transparency. The review into the ACCU Scheme Landfill Gas Methods is a good opportunity to further refine the policy settings to ensure ACCUs generated correlate to additional abatement above current technological advances and regulatory requirements.

We look forward to continued engagement with the Federal Government on climate change and emissions reduction issues.

Read submission

President’s Update – 3 June 2024

Local government inquiry submission

On behalf of all Australian councils, ALGA lodged a comprehensive, evidence-based submission to Parliament’s inquiry into local government sustainability last week.

We have made five key recommendations to the Parliamentary Committee, with our number one priority being increasing untied federal funding for local government to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

We also highlighted new research showing if local government annually received an additional $350 million for the maintenance and delivery of quality open space, Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by about $856 million each year.

I sincerely thank all of you who have provided your own submissions to the inquiry and highlighted how we can better support our communities to thrive with more sustainable funding and better partnerships.

We look forward to appearing before the committee in the coming weeks to outline our key recommendations and policy principles in more detail.

National Press Club address

I’m excited to see you in Canberra next month for our NGA, and delighted to announce tickets are now available for my National Press Club address on Tuesday 2 July.

Marking our 30th year of gathering in the capital, I will deliver a televised speech to highlight the importance of future-proofing local government in Australia.

Please note, a limited number of tickets are available for this lunch time event, so be quick!

Save the Date: 2024 Roads Congress

Finally, I’m excited to announce our 2024 National Local Roads, Transport and Infrastructure Congress will be held in Margaret River, Western Australia from 3-4 December.

We are still finalising the details and will share this information with you soon.

Survey questions for NGA24 listening sessions

ALGA is seeking feedback from 2024 NGA delegates to help shape the new Listening Sessions forum on 2 July.

For the first time, four concurrent listening sessions will feature in the program about key issues will be held during the NGA, providing an opportunity to have a say about federal policies affecting communities.

These sessions will be held after the Regional Forum on the Tuesday afternoon, before the NGA officially commences on Wednesday morning.

The listening sessions provide a platform to discuss the efficacy of Federal Government policies affecting local governments with representatives from the Commonwealth.

We want to hear from you about the following topics:

Feedback closes on 17 June 2024.

Submission to Climate Change Authority’s 2024 Issues paper: Targets, Pathways and Progress

ALGA has provided a submission to Climate Change Authority’s 2024 Issues paper: Targets, Pathways and Progress.

The submission said managing the impacts of climate change is an important issue for local government, and ALGA welcomes a science-based target to achieve Australia’s international obligations under the Paris Agreement.

ALGA also said a 2035 target must drive progress towards deep and sustained emissions reductions to limit dangerous climate change. Our communities and local government’s ability to adapt will be in doubt if we do not achieve progress on emissions reduction.

We look forward to continued engagement and working with the Federal Government on climate change issues.

Read submission

President’s Update – 20 May 2024

2024-25 Federal Budget update – Wins and more to do!

In response to ALGA’s advocacy, Australian councils will receive an additional $330 million in federal funding in 2024-25, including a $150 million increase in the Roads to Recovery program, as a result of the recent Federal Budget.

However, the Government has not delivered on their election promise of fair funding increases to Federal Assistance Grants – there has never been a more important time for you to lodge your submission to the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry we secured together, calling for an increase of at least 1% of Commonwealth Taxation Revenue to be allocated to Federal Assistance Grants.

This Budget emphasises the need for a fair and sustainable funding model, and I urge all councils to put forward a submission to the Inquiry, which closes on 31 May. ALGA has developed a guide to support you to develop your own council submissions.

ALGA strongly advocated for increased support for councils, and we were thrilled when the Government announced last November that Roads to Recovery funding would be doubled to $1 billion over the forward Budget estimates, with this commitment reflected in the Budget.

Financial Assistance Grants to councils will increase from $3.115 billion in 2023-24 to $3.27 billion ($155 million increase) next year, in line with the legislated indexation formula.

The Budget papers indicated that for Financial Assistance Grants, the Government will work with states to advance funding to councils earlier than would usually occur, and I have written to the Treasurer to seek clarity that will support you in developing your annual budgets.

ALGA applauds the intent of new housing and active transport funding however, on Budget night we highlighted that having funding only flow to local governments via state and territory governments would limit their success.  We play a key role building enabling infrastructure, as well as cycleways and footpaths, and so should be eligible to apply directly to these new programs

Local Government Conference – Last chance!

Finally, time is running out to secure your discounted tickets for our 2024 National General Assembly, with early bird registrations closing on 7 June.

This year’s NGA will again lead into the Australian Council of Local Government on Friday 5 July.

This will be my last Conference as President and, together, our last chance before the election to come together and collectively advocate to the Government and federal Ministers for the fair funding our councils and communities need.

Councils left out in the cold on Budget night

The Albanese Government has broken its pre-election promise to provide “fair increases” to Financial Assistance Grants to Australia’s 537 councils in tonight’s 2024-25 Federal Budget.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said these untied federal grants are vital to supporting local government to deliver more affordable housing, and cost-of-living relief through access to free and low-cost services.

“Local governments welcome the Federal Parliamentary inquiry into our financial sustainability over the long term, however councils and our communities need the immediate support that we were promised,” Cr Scott said.

“In the lead up to the 2022 election, Labor committed to providing fair increases to Financial Assistance Grants to councils. Tonight’s Budget was their last chance to deliver during their current term.

“Councils will welcome a $155 million increase in Financial Assistance Grants this year. However, this increase is the result of the legislated indexation formula, and far below the fair increases promised by the Government.

“This year’s Budget will be incredibly disappointing to many councils and communities that have been waiting for the Government to deliver on its fair funding promise over the past two years.

“Restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue is the key to unlocking the productivity of our cities, towns and regions, and building more liveable and vibrant communities.”

Cr Scott also welcomed the intent of new housing and active transport funding programs, and the ongoing Disaster Ready Fund, but highlighted that poor program execution would limit their success.

“The $1 billion to support new housing enabling infrastructure will be provided through state and territory governments with no guarantee it will flow to councils dealing with housing pressures,” Cr Scott said.

“Locking local governments out of federal funding to enable housing infrastructure will be a barrier to achieving the Government’s ambitious national targets.

“Councils need upfront support to upgrade our stormwater and sewerage infrastructure, or we can’t unlock the additional homes our country needs.

“The Government aims to build 1.2 million more homes, including 40,000 social and affordable homes and new remote homes in the Northern Territory.  The Treasurer has acknowledged we all must work together but it’s disappointing there is no new support in this Budget to help councils play our part.

“While councils celebrate the aim of the Government’s new $100 million National Active Transport Fund, it doesn’t make sense to exclude councils from applying when we build and maintain thousands of kilometres of footpaths and cycleways.”

However, Cr Scott said councils will be delighted to see the Government follow through on its November 2023 commitment to significantly increase road funding to local government.

“Councils maintain 75 per cent of Australia’s local roads, and independent research from the Grattan Institute last year highlighted a $1 billion per year maintenance funding deficit,” Cr Scott said.

“This year’s Budget includes an extra $150 million for the Roads to Recovery program, as well as a commitment to increase this funding to $1 billion per year over the forward estimates.

“With increased federal road funding, we can significantly improve the safety and effectiveness of the roads Australians use every day, increasing our nation’s productivity while addressing our unacceptable national road toll.”

Background

  • Financial Assistance Grants have been a fixture of local government funding since 1974. The grant is paid to local governments via their state or territory grants commissions according to an agreed formula set by the federal government.
  • In 2024-25, Australian local governments will receive $3.27 billion in federal Financial Assistance Grants, which is approximately 0.51 per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue. The last time FA Grants were equal to one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue was 1996.
  • FA Grants are untied, meaning that local governments can use this federal funding to address local issues and priorities.

Q&A with David Jenkins, IPWEA CEO

ALGA News sat down with the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia’s (IPWEA) CEO David Jenkins to discuss the importance of building, maintaining and revitalising community infrastructure to benefit communities.  Mr Jenkins also highlighted that improving local assets like libraries, community halls, sporting facilities and playgrounds as well as local roads enhances the quality of life for all Australians, and boosts national productivity.

ALGA: We know communities across Australia are struggling to build and maintain local infrastructure. How important is it for local governments to be sustainably funded to renew their playgrounds, community centres, storm water systems, libraries, sporting grounds and bike paths?

David Jenkins (DJ): One of the most significant challenges our local government engineering members remind me of regularly is having to do more with less. Coupled with a history of local government infrastructure funding being fragmented and short-term at best only exacerbates what our members experience.

As the saying goes, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. The lack of timely and regular maintenance not only leads to accelerated  deterioration of infrastructure but also results in significantly more expensive rehabilitation projects in the future. Having a long-term, sustainable and affordable financial plan that funds the maintenance and renewal of these infrastructure assets provides economic stability for communities.

ALGA: IPWEA supported ALGA’s Federal Budget priority for a dedicated $500 million per year fund to build, maintain and revitalise community infrastructure. Why is this so crucial for communities and what local and national benefits does direct funding provide?

DJ: Local government is the mainstay of infrastructure in the country. Since most of the public infrastructure in our communities is owned and operated by local councils, local government supports nearly every aspect of our day-to-day activities.

Our communities depend on this vast network of assets for their livelihoods and well-being but often take them for granted until something fails. When these assets fail, councils are forced to react, which erodes confidence and wastes valuable resources.  Dedicating sufficient funds to build, operate, maintain, and revitalise community infrastructure is imperative.

ALGA: It’s exciting IPWEA has again partnered with ALGA to deliver the next National State of the Assets (NSoA) report to be released in the coming months? Why is this evidence-based research needed and how does this support positive policy and advocacy outcomes?

DJ: Regular self-assessment against agreed-upon metrics is an essential tool for guiding investment decisions on infrastructure. It also promotes accountability and trust and ultimately achieves positive policy and advocacy outcomes that enhance the quality of life in our communities.

ALGA: How important is it to refresh and update these landmark reports, and how will this evidence-based data be used by to support councils and stakeholders??

DJ: The NSoA report demonstrates local government’s credibility, capacity and leadership at a national level and is the only credible source of consolidated data and information on infrastructure planning and performance reporting.

It enables closer collaboration, facilitates dialogue with state and territory stakeholders and allows for the development and maintenance of a coordinated capability-building and advocacy framework for local government.

ALGA: What long-term economic and social benefits are there from future-proofing the $500 billion worth of public infrastructure, owned and managed by local governments across Australia?

DJ: Well-maintained infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and public transportation systems, facilitates the movement of goods and people, enhancing productivity and efficiency. This, in turn, can attract businesses, encourage investment and stimulate economic growth within the community.

Accessible and well-maintained infrastructure also promotes social equity by ensuring that essential services, such as public transportation and sports and recreation facilities, are available to all residents, regardless of income or location. This helps reduce disparities and improve the overall quality of life for our communities.

New resources for 3G network shutdown

Local governments can access new information and resources about Australia’s upcoming 3G mobile phone network shutdown this year.

Telstra is planning to switch off its 3G network from 31 August 2024, and Optus from 1 September 2024. TPG Telecom/Vodafone has already switched off its 3G network in Australia.

To ensure communities are fully prepared for this significant shutdown, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has established a new website 3Gclosure.com.au, as well as fact sheets about the 3G transition and making emergency calls.

To ensure your local government area is ready for the 3G shutdown, you can also access more information here.

$1 billion infrastructure improvement benefits local communities

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

New national research has revealed a $1 billion improvement in the condition of Australia’s libraries, recreation centres, galleries, cultural centres and community halls over the past three years.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said a $500 million per year local government community infrastructure fund would support councils to continue to maintain and improve the important local facilities Australians use every day.

“Preliminary data from ALGA’s 2024 National State of the Assets report shows since 2021, the amount of local government buildings and facilities in poor condition has dropped from 10 per cent to eight per cent,” said Cr Scott.

“This is a fantastic result and testament to the increased federal investment in councils from both the Coalition and Albanese governments in recent years.

“However, we must continue to invest in our critically important community infrastructure, and ALGA is calling for a new $500 million per year funding program in next week’s Federal Budget.”

Cr Scott said as a tier of government councils collect less than four per cent of national taxation, and heavily rely on state, territory and Commonwealth funding.

“Financial Assistance Grants are essential to our ongoing sustainability and we are also asking the Government to deliver on its pre-election commitment to ‘fair increases’ to this funding,” Cr Scott said.

Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) President Ian Daniels said: “Community infrastructure from roads, footpaths and cycleways, stormwater drains, parks and gardens, bridges, libraries, community centres, and sporting facilities support nearly every aspect of our day-to-day activities.

“Our communities depend on this vast network of assets for their livelihoods and wellbeing but often take them for granted until something fails.  When infrastructure assets fail, councils are forced to react which erodes confidence and wastes valuable resources.

“IPWEA supports ALGA’s call to create a new, dedicated fund for community and transport infrastructure, similar to the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) program.

“This approach provides councils with more options and opportunities to better plan for the maintenance and renewal of existing assets as well as the provision of new and upgraded assets that enhance the quality of life for our communities.”

In summary, ALGA supported by IPWEA, is calling for:

  • A dedicated $500 million per year fund, indexed annually, to support councils to build, maintain and revitalise community infrastructure.
  • This funding should be allocated on a formula basis, and for untied local roads and community infrastructure projects.

President’s Update – 6 May 2024

Build up to Federal Budget

We will be closely monitoring next week’s Federal Budget in Canberra to see if the Government finally follows through on its pre-election promise of “fair increases” to Financial Assistance Grants.

The number one priority in our pre-Budget submission is restoring these vital untied grants to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue, and this is the Government’s last chance to deliver ahead of the next election.

I will write to all councils on Budget night to provide an update and overview of the relevant funding announcements for local government.

Local government inquiry update

A reminder to get your submissions into Parliament’s inquiry into local government sustainability before the end of this month.

While submissions were originally due on 3 May, ALGA successfully advocated on behalf of all councils for a four-week extension to 31 May.

We have also developed a new user-friendly guide to help you draft your council submissions, and highlight what you could do for your communities with fair and more sustainable funding.

IPWEA public works conference

I was delighted to speak at the 2024 IPWEA International Public Works Conference in Melbourne last Thursday.

During my speech and panel discussion, I highlighted how partnering with IPWEA on the National State of the Assets reports helped us successfully advocate last year for significant increases in our Roads to Recovery funding.

We’re currently working with IPWEA on the latest edition of this report, due to be released in the coming months.

Investing in road safety

It was fantastic to see the Albanese Government announce last week they are investing $21 million in the National Road Safety Data Hub.

Australian councils manage more than 75 per cent of Australia’s local road network, and improved data will support better decision-making enabling us to build and maintain safer local roads.

The Commonwealth’s Black Spot Program plays a crucial role supporting councils to address known high risk road safety sites, and last year ALGA’s advocacy delivered a 35 per cent increase in this funding, to be phased in over the forward estimates.

We welcome this new Budget announcement and are committed to continuing to work with the Australian, state and territory governments to address our unacceptable national road toll.

Regional banking announcement

Many regional communities will welcome Westpac’s announcement last week to extend their moratorium on regional bank closures until 2027.

We know the impact branch closures have on our councils and regional and rural communities, which is why we advocated for the Bank Closure Support Protocol through our participation in the Government’s Regional Banking Taskforce.

Supporting our libraries

Finally, I will be speaking at the Australian Library and Information Association national conference in Adelaide this week, highlighting the importance of our local libraries and how they’ve stepped up to support communities during this cost-of-living crisis.

I also encourage your councils to attend and promote a free webinar this Thursday about investing in street libraries.

The webinar is for community workers and placemakers from all levels of government, as well as individuals, interested in learning how Street Libraries can benefit communities.

Register here

NGA24 exhibition opportunity

With more than 50 per cent of exhibition booths already sold, time is running out to book your booth for this year’s NGA.

Held at the National Convention Centre Canberra, the NGA is an opportunity for local government service providers to engage with more than 1,000 mayors, shire presidents, CEOs and senior council staff.

The NGA will officially open with welcome drinks in the Exhibition Hall from 5pm on Tuesday 2 July, and the exhibition will run through until Friday 5 July.

Sponsorship and exhibition opportunities are still available, but don’t miss your chance to be there.

For more information, click here

New guide to respond to local government inquiry

ALGA has produced a new guide to support councils with their submissions to the Standing Committee on Regional Development, Infrastructure and Transport’s inquiry into local government sustainability

The user-friendly guide, which includes links to the latest research on the sector, is available here for all local governments.

Submissions to the inquiry were originally due by 3 May however ALGA successfully secured a four week extension, with written submissions now due by 31 May 2024.

ALGA will provide an evidence-based national submission on behalf of the sector.

But we strongly encourage all councils to provide their own submissions, with a particular focus on what you could do for your communities with fair and more sustainable funding.

Download the guide

Be prepared for 3G network shutdown

Australia’s councils, including in rural and regional areas, are being reminded about the looming shutdown of the 3G mobile phone network this year.

Telstra is planning to switch off its 3G network from 30 June 2024, and Optus from 1 September 2024. TPG Telecom/Vodafone has already switched off its 3G network in Australia.

This change has been underway since 2019 and service providers are working with local authorities and customers about devices and networks that may be impacted.

Older 3G phones, tablets and devices will soon be unable to connect to networks and some 4G enabled phones will also have limited capacity.

To ensure your local government area is ready for the 3G shutdown, you can access more information here

Have a say on Australia’s emissions reduction targets

Local governments are encouraged to provide feedback on a new issues paper from the Federal Government’s Climate Change Authority.

The 2024 Issues paper: Targets, Pathways and Progress is seeking advice on Australia’s emissions reduction targets, sectoral pathways and progress towards becoming a net zero economy.

The Authority expects to provide advice on Australia’s 2035 emissions reduction targets in October. This will inform the government’s decision on targets to be included in Australia’s next Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.

Later this year, the authority will also provide advice on Australia’s progress towards achieving its emissions reduction targets.

Submit feedback

Kerbside bin funding will curb waste sent to landfill

A national approach to kerbside recycling will help Australia’s 537 councils to reduce the five mega tonnes (MT) of waste sent to Australian landfills every year – equivalent to the weight of about 31 Sydney Opera Houses.

Through its 2024-25 Federal Budget submission, ALGA is seeking $120 million over four years to standardise kerbside bins across Australia’s cities, towns and regions and implement a new national education campaign.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said confusion around which products can be recycled – and which kerbside bin should be used – remains a significant barrier to diverting waste from landfill.

“Australia’s councils are committed to reducing the waste we send to landfill, as well as recovering valuable resources that can be separated, processed and used to make new products,” Cr Scott said.

“Standardising bin lids across the entire country would allow us to run a national education campaign that would give Australians the information they need to make informed decisions about what they put in their bins.

“While New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT already have standardised kerbside bins, this new federal program would enable councils in other states and territories to accelerate the transition in a nationally consistent way.”

Local councils manage around 25 per cent of Australia’s waste, collecting approximately 9.7 mega tonnes each year from kerbside bin services.  This waste is sorted at material recovery facilities and dispatched to what can be recycled at reprocessing facilities in Australia and overseas.

Cr Scott said local government is also working closely with the Federal Government to strengthen product stewardship.

“Fundamental to improving kerbside recycling collection is the redesign of packaging so there is less waste, and it contains less mixed material and is more easily recycled,” Cr Scott said.

President’s Update – 22 April 2024

Win! Four week extension for local government inquiry submissions

I am pleased to announce that ALGA’s request for a four-week extension for all submissions to Parliament’s inquiry into local government sustainability has been granted, with the new due date being Friday 31 May.

ALGA will provide a comprehensive, evidence-based submission on behalf of all local governments. However, it’s important that the Parliamentary Committee have a full understanding of the challenges facing Australian councils – as well as how we could support our communities to thrive with more sustainable funding – so I encourage all councils to provide their own submissions.

This Federal Government has promised “fair increases” to Financial Assistance Grants and I urge you to highlight what this would mean for your local area.

Curbing kerbside waste to landfill

One of ALGA’s priorities in next month’s Federal Budget is funding support to standardise kerbside bins across the country.

We are committed to doing everything we can to reduce the amount of household waste that is sent to landfill, but confusion around which products can be recycled – and which kerbside bin should be used – remains a significant barrier.

Standardising bin lids across the entire country would allow us to run a national education campaign that would give Australians the information they need to make informed decisions about what they put in their bins, and help us deliver better environmental outcomes.

Planning for climate change

I recently welcomed the Government’s new Heat-Health Risk Index, which will help us as community leaders to better prepare and respond to extreme heat across Australia.

We are at the forefront of climate change adaptation, providing critical services and facilities that protect Australians from the impacts of rising temperatures and heat waves.

From air-conditioned libraries and community centres to tree-lined parks and  community pools, we provide shelter from the elements, especially during the hotter summer months.

This new national heat mapping tool will support us to expand on our local adaptation initiatives and make place-based decisions that will help keep our communities cooler.

New survey on road safety risk assessments

The Office of Road Safety is interested in how local governments in Australia can be better supported to undertake network safety risk assessments to prioritise infrastructure investment.

As a result, all councils are invited to participate in a new survey to help identify the skills, support and capabilities local governments need to help in the development of a supporting framework.

The aim is to increase the impact councils can have on reducing the road toll, which remains unacceptably high.

The survey can be found here.

Submission to National Adaptation Plan Issues Paper

ALGA has provided a submission to the Federal Government’s National Adaptation Plan Issues Paper.

The submission makes a number of recommendations from the local government sector focusing on key role councils can play in adaptation for assets and services in local communities.

ALGA highlighted that climate change has the potential to damage local government assets, cause serious disruptions to the delivery of council services, generate unbudgeted financial impacts, and affect the overall wellbeing of communities – particularly those most vulnerable to weather extremes.

We look forward to a continued dialogue with the Government on adaptation issues.

Read submission

Carer Help offering community support for life-limiting illness

As many local governments interact with and provide direct services to older Australians, CarerHelp provides free and trustworthy online information and resources to Australians caring for someone with a life-limiting illness.

CarerHelp addresses end of life topics including managing common symptoms, emotional care, financial matters, caring for the dying person, and managing grief.  There is also information in other languages, for Indigenous families, and for support workers.

We urge you to share CarerHelp with your communities. For more information or to order free CarerHelp promotional materials, contact carerhelp@flinders.edu.au.

CarerHelp is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.

Local government partners needed for night time economy study

Local governments are invited to join the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors (CCCLM) to measure the Australian Night Time Economy (NTE) for the 2022-2023 period.

Do you represent a council with ambitions to better understand and support economic activity after dark? Are you interested in understanding the performance trends of your NTE over time? This research offers an affordable and low-cost opportunity to gain insights into your NTE’s performance.

The CCCLM night time economy research provides:

  • Access to comprehensive data on the number of NTE businesses, employees and amount of sales turnover generated in your LGA over time.
  • Insights into and the trading hours and precinct patterns shaping your NTE’s growth.
  • Opportunities to contribute to informing future strategies and policies aimed at bolstering Australian NTE vitality.

For more details click here or to express your interest, contact 02 5104 7333 or deborah.wilkinson@lordmayors.org before Friday 26 April 2024.

Careers at Council Jobs Summit in Sydney

ALGA President Cr Linda Scott will officially open the inaugural Careers at Council Jobs Summit hosted by LGNSW in Sydney on 1 May.

The summit provides the opportunity for local government decision-makers to learn more about recent changes in the employment market and share successful council practices to building a skilled and sustainable workforce.

Aimed local government HR recruitment, elected members, general managers and hiring managers, the one-day summit will feature specialists in labour market analysis, employment marketing and council case studies highlighting better engage with our future workforce.

To be held at the Swissotel in Sydney, the summit will also consider the future and impact of AI on job roles and service delivery.

Register now

Learn more about Careers at Council here

Submission to COVID-19 response

ALGA provided a submission to the Federal Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was lodged in December 2023.

The detailed submission highlighted that as the closest level of government to the community, local government was in a unique position to identify community needs and make sure that those needs were met in the most appropriate way during the COVID-19 response in Australia.

Our submission also outlined local governments’ digital transformation, which delivered efficiencies and deepened community engagement. It was also the impetus for many councils to rethink business as usual and adopt innovative solutions to provide services to communities.

Read the submission

President’s Update – 8 April 2024

New Governor General appointed

I was delighted to see Sam Mostyn AO announced as the next Governor-General of Australia last week.

Sam is a humble, dedicated servant of the public good, and a wonderful appointment by the Albanese Government.

Thank you also to outgoing Governor General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley DCE FTSE and his family for their service.  We were honoured to work closely with him, noting in particular his support for leaders and communities recovering from natural disasters was unprecedented and especially warmly welcomed by Australian local governments.

In recent years, we’ve been honoured to have His Excellency deliver the opening address at our National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA), and I’ve written to Sam asking her to continue this valued tradition.

I’m confident that under Sam’s leadership, we will continue to work effectively across all levels of government to build stronger, more resilient communities, and drive sustainable development across Australia.

Reminder: national inquiry into local government sustainability

A reminder to all councils to lodge your submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee national inquiry into local government sustainability.

ALGA will provide a submission on behalf of local government, but it will also be valuable for the Committee to hear a range of local perspectives from your councils.

The Albanese Federal Government made an election commitment to provide “fair increases” to Financial Assistance Grants which they have not yet met, so it’s important that this inquiry looks for ways that promise will be supported (including retrospectively).

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

This is despite additional responsibilities increasingly being forced onto Australian councils by other spheres of government.

By international standards, investment in Australian councils is low, and this is constraining our capacity to deliver core services, such as maintaining local roads and community infrastructure.

Restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation is crucial to ensuring sustainable, productive and liveable communities.

I once again urge councils to make a submission noting these key points, and examples where an increase to Financial Assistance Grants will support your local community to thrive, before the deadline of 3 May 2024.

Book now for 2024 NGA and the ACLG

Last week, I invited all councils to book your tickets for our 2024 NGA, in Canberra from Tuesday 2 -Thursday 4 July.

Our 30th NGA will be our biggest annual conference yet, and we have released a registration brochure outlining the full week of events, including networking sessions and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) on Friday 5 July.

This year we have a new addition to the NGA program, with four concurrent listening sessions providing you with the opportunity to have your say about federal policies affecting our communities. These sessions will be held after our Regional Forum on the Tuesday afternoon, before the NGA officially commences on Wednesday morning.

I’ll also be speaking at the National Press Club at lunch time on Tuesday and hosting our annual Local Government vs Parliamentarians soccer match early Wednesday morning.

Your councils can still submit motions for discussion and debate at the NGA, with the deadline extended until 30 April.  Please remember your motions must meet the criteria outlined in our discussion paper.

I’m so excited about this year’s NGA and I hope to see you there.

Update on federal road funding programs

The Federal Government is reminding local governments about funding available through the Roads to Recovery program, and roads and community infrastructure projects funded through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) program.

Roads to Recovery

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts is encouraging councils to submit projects and draw on remaining funds before the current period ends.

To access remaining funds, councils must finalise their work schedule and provide a 1 January – 31 March 2024 quarterly report with projected expenditure to 30 June 2024. This will enable payments to be made by mid-May 2024 with funding to be spent by 31 December 2024.

Councils can use the Department’s Infrastructure Management System to access and update their project and funding information, and are encouraged to contact Roads.toRecovery@infrastructure.gov.au with any specific questions.

LRCI program

Project construction for phases 1, 2 and 3 of the LRCI program is required by 30 June 2024. Councils looking to amend their work schedule must do so before 30 April 2024.

For phase 4, most councils now have an approved work schedule for project construction by 30 June 2025.

The Department also reminds councils without an approved work schedule for phase 4 to submit their proposed projects for approval to LRCIP@infrastructure.gov.au.

Councils have a short time left to ensure they can access remaining funds under both programs, with reporting required by 30 April 2024.

Councils reminded to register for NGA24 and ACLG

Australia’s local governments are being reminded to book tickets for the 2024 National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA) in Canberra from Tuesday 2 – Thursday 4 July.

The 30th NGA at the National Convention Centre is expected to be ALGA’s biggest annual conference, and a registration brochure has been released showcasing a week of events, including networking sessions, exhibition details and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) being held on Friday 5 July.

There is also a new addition to this year’s program, with concurrent listening sessions providing delegates with the chance to have a say about federal policies affecting their communities.  The four sessions will be held after the Regional Forum on Tuesday afternoon, before the 2024 NGA officially begins on Wednesday.

Councils are also reminded to submit motions for discussion and debate at the NGA, with the deadline extended until 30 April.  A reminder that all motions must meet the criteria outlined in the discussion paper.

Find out more: https://conferenceco.eventsair.com/nga24/

Urgent need to boost disaster mitigation to safeguard communities

The Federal Government’s Disaster Ready Fund (DRF) is heavily oversubscribed and needs to be increased by at least $250 million per year to better protect Australian communities from future natural disasters.

More than 300 applications seeking $460 million were submitted in the first round of the DRF in 2023, with 187 of these projects successfully funded, including 100 by councils.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said while councils have welcomed the $200 million DRF, which was secured through local government advocacy, the latest figures show it’s vastly insufficient given the number of potential mitigation projects across the country.

“Our communities have been repeatedly hit by floods, fires and cyclones over the past two years, with more than 60 per cent of local government areas affected,” Cr Scott said.

“We have to better prepare for the increasingly frequent and more severe natural disasters we are experiencing, and local government is calling for an extra $250 million of federal investment in disaster mitigation.”

In 2021, Deloitte Access Economics estimated natural disasters cost Australia $38 billion per year, and this amount is expected to rise to $73 billion per year by 2060, assuming a low-emissions scenario.

Cr Scott said investing in mitigation makes economic sense and significantly reduces the costs governments incur during the recovery process.

“We know for every additional dollar spent on mitigating the effects of climate-related natural disasters, it saves the government up to $8 in the long term, according to DFAT analysis,” Cr Scott said.

“Given these large-scale mitigation projects can cost tens of millions of dollars to plan and deliver, Australia needs to significantly increase its investment in emergency preparedness.

“For example, the Bundaberg East flood levee – proposed by Bundaberg Regional Council and funded by the Federal and Queensland Governments – will cost around $175 million alone.

“As a nation, we urgently need to boost our investment in disaster mitigation to protect our homes and communities, and save lives.”

Aged care information session for local government

Local governments are invited to attend an information session on 18 April to better understand new strengthened aged care quality standards in Australia.

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), Local Government Association of South Australia (LGA SA) and Local Government NSW (LGNSW) are jointly hosting the session, via MS Teams, with representatives from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The free workshop is being held from 1:30 pm-2:30 pm (AEDT) with support from the Federal Department of Health and Aged Care.

It’s important for councils providing aged care services, particularly those only providing Commonwealth Home Support Program services, to attend to understand the new quality standards, which could be implemented as early as July this year.

Click here to register for the information session

Click here to read more

Housing support program to boost workforce and streamline planning

The opening of applications and release of guidelines for the Federal Government’s new $500 million Housing Support Program has been welcomed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

Through the first round of the program, state, territory and local governments can access funding to improve planning capacity as well as streamline planning processes.

ALGA President Cr Linda Scott said: “Our research shows 40 per cent of councils are struggling to secure qualified urban and town planners, which is holding us back from facilitating more affordable housing in our communities.

“We have been advocating for more support to increase our planning capacity and capability and are thrilled the Government has responded with this new funding program.

“It’s also encouraging that the Housing Support Program will fund important pre-planning work such as master planning, or assessing hazards to improve the resilience of new housing developments.

“I urge all councils to consider applying for this new funding before the deadline of 29 April 2024.”

Cr Scott said local governments were committed to helping deliver the Commonwealth’s ambitious housing targets and enable vital infrastructure investment in new housing developments.

“However we can’t effectively address the nation’s housing crisis by simply building more houses – we also need to build more parks, libraries, playgrounds, recreation centres and swimming pools,” Cr Scott said.

“ALGA is calling for the Housing Support Program to be increased from $500 million to $750 million in the upcoming Federal Budget, with the additional $250 million available to local governments for infrastructure to improve the liveability of new housing developments.”

Cr Scott said local governments also look forward to seeing the Government’s revised Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings and the Net Zero Built Environment Sector Plan to provide improvements in housing affordability and liveability.

“Our communities want and deserve higher quality buildings that are safer, more resilient and energy-efficient,” Cr Scott said.

“We also want to reduce the extra costs being incurred by local governments for providing services to poorly designed developments and neighborhoods.”

President’s Update – 25 March 2024

Win! National inquiry into local government sustainability

Last week, we welcomed the House of Representatives Standing Committee national inquiry into local government sustainability.

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

Financial sustainability is our number one priority, and it’s vital we restore Financial Assistance Grants to at least one percent of national taxation and address the practice of bringing these payments forward with a once-off $3 billion allocation to councils.

ALGA’s research shows Australian councils receive a lower level of funding than comparable nations, so we need to reverse this trend to ensure our councils – and communities – remain sustainable.

I encourage all councils to lodge a submission outlining these key points, and examples where an increase to financial assistance grants will support your local community to thrive, before the deadline of 3 May 2024.

Action! Help us secure more disaster mitigation funding

Our communities have been repeatedly hit by natural disasters over the past two years, with more than 60 percent of local government areas affected across Australia.

ALGA’s 2022 federal election advocacy secured a new $200 million federal Disaster Ready Fund (DRF).  However, the first round of the DRF is already oversubscribed, and we are advocating for a significant increase in this year’s Federal Budget.

We need your support to contact and engage with your local Federal MPs so we can secure this much-needed funding to better protect our communities.

Council on Federal Financial Relations

I was honoured to represent local government and join Australia’s treasurers at the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) meeting on 15 March.

We know increasing Federal Assistance Grants is an investment in improving service delivery, increasing national productivity and driving higher living standards for all Australians and communities. On your behalf, ALGA will continue to work to ensure councils are more financially sustainable into the future.

Vale David Plumridge AM

I was saddened to hear of the recent passing of former ALGA President David Plumridge AM.

David was ALGA’s national president from 1994-1996, and during his term negotiated a Commonwealth-Local Government Accord with Prime Minister Keating that was signed at our second National General Assembly in 1995.

In his home state of South Australia, he served as President of the Local Government Association of South Australia, as well as a Mayor at the City of Salisbury, and then later as a councillor at the City of Adelaide.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends and former colleagues at this time.

Kicking off our 2024 NGA

I’m excited to see hundreds of mayors, shire presidents and local government leaders have registered for our peak annual event, the 2024 National General Assembly (NGA) from 2-4 July in Canberra.

The NGA begins with the Regional Forum starting on 2 July from 9.00am and runs through until Friday 5 July with the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) finishing at 4pm. To ensure you experience the whole week, please make sure you arrive by early Tuesday morning, and book your departure late Friday afternoon.

As part of this year’s NGA, I will also be speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday 2 July.  We will share details soon about how you can attend this event.

Don’t forget, we also hold our annual Local Government versus Parliamentarians soccer match in the early hours of Wednesday 3 July.  See you on the pitch!

Finally, voting has officially opened for the 2024 National Awards for Local Government to be presented at the ACLG – so make sure you cast your vote here.

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.

Have a say on managing climate change risks

Local governments are invited to provide feedback on the Australian Government’s National Adaptation Plan Issues Paper to ensure Australia is better prepared for the increasing risks from climate change.

The plan will form a blueprint for adapting to nationally significant climate risks, and is based on world-class science of the National Climate Risk Assessment and on extensive consultation.

Have your say and lodge a submission here.

The consultation closes on 11 April 2024.  Councils can also register for a webinar on 26 March to learn more.

Enter now: 2024 Resilient Australia Awards

Local governments are urged to enter the 2024 Resilient Australia Awards to celebrate and promote initiatives building community resilience to disasters and emergencies around Australia.

Sponsored by the Australian Government in partnership with states and territories, the awards recognise collaboration and innovative across a broad range of sectors and initiatives that strengthen disaster resilience with communities, institutions and the private sector.

There is a specific category for councils under the Resilient Australia Local Government Award, which is also open to local government associations.

Please note, submissions for the 2024 awards program must relate to projects or initiatives that began after 1 January 2022 or demonstrate significant outcomes or enhancements since 1 January 2022.

See the guidelines for the awards, which close for submissions on Friday 31 May.

Housing fund shortfall won’t help councils build better communities

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

The Federal Government’s new Housing Support Program must be increased to $750 million to empower local governments to help deliver the Commonwealth’s ambitious housing targets and enable vital infrastructure investment in new housing developments.

The competitive program – which has been welcomed by local government – will provide funding for connecting essential services, amenities to support new housing development, and building planning capability.

ALGA President Cr Linda Scott said the peak body for Australia’s 537 councils was a proud signatory of the National Housing Accord, which has set a target of 1.2 million new, well-located homes over the next five years.

However, under the current $500 million housing program, this only equates to about $400 per home, based on the 1.2 million homes target.  Given the costs of civil and essential services infrastructure in greenfield or infill development, the program funding is vastly insufficient.

Cr Scott said: “While we welcome the Government’s housing fund for enabling infrastructure investment in new developments, this is nowhere near enough to help deliver on Australia’s ambitious national housing targets.

“Preparing new land releases will cost billions of dollars, with much of the pressure falling on a small number of councils that will be expected to take on the majority of new housing.

“While we desperately need more affordable housing, this has to be supported by local infrastructure and services that will enable healthy and connected communities, especially in regional and remote areas.

“This means we need more swimming pools to provide relief on hot days, more libraries to run community programs and more bike paths for active transport and better environmental outcomes.

“Developer contributions are vital to building this infrastructure, but we also want to see the Housing Support Program expanded by $250 million to better support councils to build the facilities our communities need.

“Up-front funding for community infrastructure is a matter of intergenerational equity.  We have to address this issue now before we build 1.2 million new homes, as it will only get more expensive to retrofit solutions.”

NGAA Chair Cr Matthew Deeth said: “Our fast-growing outer metropolitan cities and suburbs have been shouldering the housing development burden for decades.

“Our communities – making up around one-fifth of Australia’s population – live with infrastructure deficits and challenges accessing employment, health care and community facilities other parts of the country take for granted.

“It is important we learn from the past and establish effective partnerships and funding models involving all levels of government if we genuinely care about the future of our growing communities.”

Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) CEO Wendy Hayhurst said: “Our country has a desperate shortfall of community housing, and on current trends, close to one million low-income Australians’ housing needs will not be met by 2041.

“As well as building homes, we need to ensure the people who live in them have access to great community infrastructure. We’ve recently done research that demonstrates the positive health and wellbeing benefits from living near well-designed parks with playgrounds, picnic spaces and cycle paths.

“Our tenants also need free and low-cost services run out of libraries, health clinics and community centres. These are the services that really allow a community to flourish and they must be robustly funded.”

In summary, with support from the NGAA and CHIA, ALGA is calling for in the 2024-25 Federal Budget:

  • An increase in the Government’s Housing Support Program from $500 million to $750 million.
  • The additional $250 million is to be made available to local governments for infrastructure to improve the liveability of new housing developments.

President’s Update – 11 March 2024

Increasing Housing Support Program for councils

We can’t effectively address the nation’s housing crisis by simply building more houses – we also need to build more parks, libraries, playgrounds, recreation centres and swimming pools.

That’s why ALGA is calling for more support for councils from the Federal Government to invest in the local infrastructure necessary for healthy and connected communities.

We are committed to working with the Government on its ambitious targets, but it’s crucial residents in new housing developments have access to the same health, employment, education and recreation opportunities that many people take for granted.

Up-front funding for community infrastructure is a matter of intergenerational equity. We have to address this issue now before we build 1.2 million new homes, as it will only get more expensive to retrofit solutions.

Also, in a major win for councils following the recent Planning Ministers Meeting, local government, via ALGA, will be able to suggest inclusions in the government’s new housing framework to recognise the quality as well as quantity of approvals.

Importantly, this reinforces the importance of local government planning powers.  We intimately know our local areas and landscapes and are best placed to provide expert advice on assessing land use planning.

Meeting with Climate Change Minister on CHAMP pledge

On behalf of councils, I met with Federal Minister for Climate Change Chris Bowen on 29 February to discuss the Federal Government signing the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP) pledge at the COP28 World Climate Action Summit.

We urged the Government to sign the pledge, which commits national governments to working with sub-national governments to reduce emissions, and were thrilled that they made this commitment.

During our meeting we discussed how local government can help the Government meet its emissions reduction targets, and I look forward to seeing them deliver on their promise of increased engagement and collaboration with councils.

(L-R): ALGA Vice President Mayor Matt Burnett, Federal Climate Change Minster Chris Bowen and ALGA President Cr Linda Scott.

Book now: 2024 NGA and the ACLG

Finally, a friendly reminder to book your tickets for our 2024 National General Assembly (NGA) from 2-4 July and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) on 5 July.

Councils can also submit motions for discussion and debate at the NGA.  We have extended the motions deadline until 30 April, and please remember your motions must meet the criteria outlined in our discussion paper.

See you in Canberra in July.

Q&A with Cathie Warburton, ALIA CEO

ALGA News sat down with Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA) CEO Cathie Warburton to discuss how libraries are stepping up to support communities during the cost-of-living crisis.  Ms Warburton highlighted how public libraries, especially run by councils, are helping to improve the liveability of communities by providing essential services to vulnerable people and families.

ALGA: We know many communities are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis in Australia. How are libraries, particularly those run by local governments, stepping up to provide essential services to help vulnerable people?

Cathie Warburton (CW): A core value of ALIA, and all libraries, is to promote free access to information for all and to show respect for the diversity and individuality of all people. Libraries are there to help vulnerable people and that resource is becoming increasingly important to the community.

Most importantly, public libraries provide a safe place to work, study or relax, which is air-conditioned. They also provide books, movies, magazines, free internet access and use of computers and are increasingly providing guidance on accessing government services.

Libraries welcome everyone and respond to community need in times of stress. This includes membership for those people who don’t have a fixed address, a place of refuge during natural disasters, assistance applying for jobs or finding accommodation and simply being a place to connect with other people and participate in the community.

ALGA: Can you share some of the interesting examples and community-based initiatives libraires are now offering, especially in regional areas?

CW: Public libraries are offering a huge array of public activities including movie nights, exercise classes, book clubs, school holiday programs, mobile library services, hobbies expos and multi-media recording studios. As well as books, a number of libraries are lending tablets, toys, home energy kits or tools. Seed libraries are also popular in the regions.

ALGA: Libraries are also becoming increasingly important as a focal point and place of refuge for local communities. How are council-run libraries addressing this extra demand and coping with added pressures?

CW: Council-run libraries are responding to extra demand by providing greater access through extended opening hours, click and collect book lockers or access out of hours for registered members. Some libraries have employed a social worker to support library users or in some cases to be a resource for library staff.

Libraries are a hub for the community, and they do not operate in isolation. Strategic and community partnerships with other organisations and services are essential for libraries to respond to community needs.  Libraries can also belong to an ecosystem of care that supports and responds to individual needs of library visitors with high social service needs.

ALGA: We recently called on the Federal Government to provide extra funding for Australia’s 537 councils so they can be more financially sustainable, does ALIA support this move and why?

CW: ALIA supports ALGA in this call for extra funding from the Federal Government. Council-run libraries are responding to increased demands from the community. Some of this is in response to the cost-of-living crisis but increased demand is also the result of a number of Federal Government services only being available online. Digital exclusion is real and council-run libraries bridge the digital divide by helping people access services and entitlements online.

ALGA: Finally, ALIA is hosting a national conference in May this year in Adelaide.  What can people, including those in local government, expect from this major event?

The conference is being held from 6-9 May in Adelaide. The theme is “Truth AND Dare” with four sub themes – Daring Greatly Striving Valiantly; Forging Future Libraries; From Inclusion to Belonging; and Raising Voices.

We are very excited to have the President of ALGA, Cr Linda Scott, as a keynote speaker at the event. Issues being discussed in other sessions of interest to local government are book challenges, supporting vulnerable members of the community and equitable access to services for those with a disability. An emerging area for libraries is social prescribing where public libraries partner with health service providers and care agencies to offer support through library services which focus on the whole person and their wellness as opposed to their illness or condition.

2023 Closing the Gap Annual Report

ALGA Closing the Gap Annual Reports

ALGA’s 2023 Closing the Gap Annual Report outlines a range of case studies/examples of Australian councils working to support reconciliation and updates progress against ALGA’s previous Implementation Plan.

The report also provides a high-level assessment of progress on each of the actions ALGA and member state and territory local government associations committed to undertake in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks and jurisdictions.

To download the full report, click here.

Read ALGA’s 2022 Closing the Gap Annual Report.