Councillor Linda Scott has addressed the National Press Club in Canberra, discussing the future-proofing of local government in Australia through the key pillars of support, safety and sustainability. 

Cr Scott used the address to highlight the recommendations the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) will put to the Federal Government this week at the National General Assembly to achieve long-term, livable and productive communities that better achieve national priorities. These include: 

  1. Increase untied Federal Government funding for local government to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue to provide long-term financial certainty and security for local government in Australia 
  2. The Federal Government should have greater ambition and confidence in funding local government directly through existing Constitutional heads of power and establish a process for constitutional change that recognises local government in the Constitution 
  3. Recognise the essential role of local government in achieving national priorities across productivity, improved community wellbeing, reduced inequality, environmental protection, circular economy, emissions reduction, emergency management, increasing secure well-paid jobs, and building a skilled workforce 
  4. Extend local government’s role in National Cabinet to permanent membership, including on all ministerial forums 
  5. Make no changes to the formulas that determine federal funding distributions for local government that would reduce the quantum of funding received by any Australian council 

Cr Scott used her address to touch on the reasons ALGA is advocating for these five key policy pillars. 

“Local governments manage one third of our national infrastructure and 77 per cent of our roads, and much more, and all with a Federal Government contribution of just 0.5 per cent of tax revenue,” Cr Scott said. 

“No other government provides as many immediate and critical services as local governments do. For all that we provide, 0.5 per cent is simply not enough.” 

According to Cr Scott, local governments need long-term sustainable funding to ensure it can implement the services and programs their communities require. 

Local governments first started receiving Federal funding more than fifty years ago. In that time, the services councils provide have expanded significantly, now encompassing supporting communities after natural disasters and mitigating the impacts of climate change – and yet the funding model for local governments has not changed at all. 

“Despite the clear economic contribution of local government, historical funding models do not maximise local government’s capacity to drive economic development. These models have not kept pace with increasing responsibilities and cost pressures.” 

Cr Scott also highlighted the economic benefits that come with local government investment, which show a clear return on investment for Federal funds. These include: 

  • If local government were provided annually with an additional $350 million for the maintenance and delivery of quality open space, Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by $858.9 million each year 
  • If local government were able to effectively increase its capacity to perform regulatory services in planning and building, there would be an annual saving of $859 million for development proponents and would generate an additional $1.67 billion in GDP each year 
  • Investing an additional $1 billion each year into the maintenance of local government roads would increase GDP by $354.6 million annually 

Cr Scott also highlighted the critical role councils play as “providers of last resort” for a number of services in regional and rural areas, including aged care, and the need for all levels of government to work together to rapidly create more affordable housing, which she described as a national crisis. 

The address was also a chance for Cr Scott to highlight the valued and respected role councils play in their local communities. 

“Local governments touch every part of Australia, and we manage $643 billion in assets. But far more valuable than this is the level of trust our communities have in our level of government.” 

 With the National General Assembly continuing this week and the Australian Council of Local Government meeting taking place on Friday, these topics will continue to be debated throughout the week in Canberra. 

Featured image: ALGA President, Cr Linda Scott. Image credit: Prime Creative Media. 

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