It is well known that some Councils in New South Wales are struggling to maintain services and facilities for their communities. In fact, as revealed by the Independent Allan Inquiry, released in May last year, 25 per cent of Councils are unsustainable under existing conditions.
As I reach the end of my Presidency, I am really impressed with how Local Government has taken the bull by the horns and is doing its bit to deal with the problem.
After the inquiry was released, the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW formed the Strengthening Local Government Task Force, which was tasked with reviewing the 49 recommendations from the Inquiry and working out the best way forward.
As a result of the Inquiry and the task force (which I Co-Chair), there have already been a number of positive outcomes:
- The Associations will carry out an annual cost shifting survey, to work out where buck passing is happening and why. The first of these surveys is currently underway, with a report due in September.
- The Associations have approached the State Government with a draft Inter-Governmental Agreement. An agreement was one of the main ecommendations of the Inquiry, and would encourage a constructive relationship between the spheres of government; establish communication and consultation processes; and help guarantee services and infrastructure are delivered and funded more effectively. Negotiations on this important issue continue.
- The Department of Local Government, in conjunction with the Associations, IPWEA and LGMA NSW released ‘Planning A Sustainable Future’, a Department of Local Government options paper on Integrated Planning and Reporting for NSW Councils. The paper outlines various options to improve strategic and financial planning and reporting systems within Councils.
- The Task Force has been running a series of regional workshops and round tables to get Council, business and community views on the challenges facing Local Government, and how they think the issues would best be addressed.
This is all about Local Government taking some responsibility for the serious challenges it is facing, and I am proud to have been involved.
Obviously, clearing the $6.3 billion backlog facing Councils won’t be possible without substantial support from other levels of government.