In each edition we feature the views of a Local Government Association President. The following is from Councillor John Rich, President of the Local Government Association of South Australia.
I have enjoyed my term as LGA President and am proud of the way South Australian Councils have responded to LGA initiatives and shown leadership in their communities in a range of areas during the past two years.
The LGA’s Financial Sustainability Program has seen us grasp the recommendations of our 2005 independent inquiry and transform our financial performance.
Within a short space of time every SA Council will have a robust longterm asset management plan and a longterm financial plan and every Council now has an audit committee that includes independent members.
We have adopted a set of financial indicators, model financial statements and issued 14 information papers on topics from debt management to financial governance and setting financial targets.
I am confident that within two to three years all SA Councils will be on track to achieving financial sustainability, including the identification of key gaps in State and Federal funding and greater community understanding of the challenges they face.
We all need to remember that we serve the same communities.
I am also convinced that this intensive effort to achieve consistency among Councils of our approaches to financial management will assist us to convince other governments of the merits of investing in communities through their Councils.
Currently the LGA has two further independent inquiries under way. The first, into waste management and recycling programs, and the second, jointly with the Minister, to review Local Government elections. Both are fundamental to our operations and warrant the reassurance of independent analysis.
The Federal Budget brought some positive news in the form of substantial extensions to road funding programs we rely on and also a program to support regional airports. We support ALGA’s ongoing work to convince the Commonwealth to provide more support for upgrading of community infrastructure.
Two further LGA initiatives will occur in June, with a major forum on new shared services opportunities and a forum to review statewide policies for Local Government.
In SA we have many shared services functions already, including finance, liability cover, superannuation, workers compensation, electricity and book purchase to name a few, but Councils believe there are more opportunities. Importantly the LGA, in conjunction with Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA), has just launched a promotional strategy to encourage people to choose a career in Local Government. The slogan for the campaign is ‘Shape your World’ which appropriately highlights the vast number of jobs available to those who want to have a real impact on the social, environmental and economic development of local communities.
I also look forward to launching a booklet highlighting a series of Council examples of good practice in citizen and community engagement. I believe we need to do more to inform and educate our communities to ensure our consultative approaches are effective.
I have appreciated the support of my interstate colleagues during my presidency and the work of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA). The ALGA continues to fly the flag for Councils and local communities through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), Ministerial Councils and in many other ways which are not recognised as well as they should be.
Mayor Joy Baluch will take over as President in July and will have my strong support, and that of the association’s State Executive Committee, in carrying on the task of leadership for Councils on a range of fronts as we meet the many challenges that still lie ahead.
Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank Local Government FOCUS for its work in improving communication within and outside Local Government across Australia.