The real value of local government - Presidentís comment

Article image - The real value of local government - Presidentís comment Mayor Mark Jamieson LGAQ President

I would like to share with you for a moment some interesting facts about local government.

Queensland councils spend around $10 billion a year on their operations and somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion on capital works.

Collectively, Queensland’s councils own around $110 billion worth of assets, with debt of around $7 billion. Our asset management responsibilities are, by value, almost as big as those of the Commonwealth Government.

We also employ nearly 40,000 people across the State.
If local government was a company listed on the stock exchange, it would have more assets and employ more staff than the largest three Queensland public companies combined – these being Suncorp, Aurizon and Tatts Group.

And we do all of that (comparatively) on the smell of an oily rag.
The local government sector raises just three per cent of all public sector revenue in Australia - but is responsible for 25 per cent of the nation’s public infrastructure. A lot of that is here in Queensland because unlike councils interstate, we have responsibility for water and waste water.

Local councils were established in Queensland for 42 years before Federation – before the ill-fated expedition by Burke and Wills. Because we’ve been around so long, we understand what’s important to local communities and how to invest in their future.

Queensland councils spend $228 million a year working to protect the Great Barrier Reef - much more than the other two levels of government put in.

Some councils run hospitals, others have mortuaries or broadcasting facilities. Some partially fund schools to make sure local kids don’t have to move away to get an education.

As the representative of Queensland councils, the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) provides a wide range of services to our members, reflecting the breadth and depth of their responsibilities across the sector.

These include insurance, workers compensation, procurement, shared services, facilities management, call centres, after hours service, disaster management, website maintenance, training and professional development, industrial relations, human resources, organisational development consulting, renewable energy projects, information and communications technology and - most recently - data analytics and a soon to be built blockchain.

The LGAQ is fast becoming a world leader in that smart technology space.

KPMG estimated these services help councils save around $140 million a year.

Because of our approach to developing the business of the LGAQ, we have been able to provide a rebate to councils of much of their insurance premiums and other costs.

So over the past seven years, our net call on council funds has amounted to about $3.25 million.

Every one of Queensland’s 77 councils got at least one face-to-face visit from the LGAQ last year, with Greg [Hallam, LGAQ CEO] and/or I visiting 66 councils ourselves.

When you remember our northern most council (Torres Strait Islands) is 2600 kilometres from Brisbane and Birdsville in our western most council (Diamantina) is 1600 kilometres west and closer by road to Adelaide than Brisbane, that’s a lot of time spent out on the ground.

But we wouldn’t have it any other way.  The rich diversity and focus on community is what sets local government apart from other levels of government – and creates a family that we are very proud to call our own.