With the year speeding to a close, councils are far from resting on their laurels. A heightened sense of positivity about local government’s role in Australia, and an increase in mainstream attention on councils and on the breadth of services they provide can only mean good things heading into 2013.

Although the Federal Government’s formation of a committee to consider constitutional recognition of local government does not make a referendum a fait accompli, the much awaited step forward at least signals some action on this issue. Whether there is now time to run a successful referendum campaign before the next election remains to be seen.

That said, most councils are already expert in accessing funds from a myriad of state and federal grant programs, with a bewildering array of projects and services resulting from the award of grants or from inter-council and inter-governmental partnerships. Rod Brown’s The Good Oil lists the grants that are still up for grabs from the Federal Government following the freeze on FAGs.

Our feature highlights some of the ways councils are both sourcing funding and developing their potential as tourist destinations and/or as viable local economies, such as Broome’s investment in its Chinese heritage, or the comprehensive marketing campaign from New England’s high country councils.
There are some great stories here, of innovation, imagination, and a strong sense of regional and community identity — arguably the latter is what makes local government areas most meaningful for their residents. Sutherland Shire’s ‘Greenstreets’ project is an excellent example of a council drawing on this powerful sense of community and improving the local environment in the process.

And, finally, there is copious evidence that councils are expanding their communications and marketing into new mediums, taking advantage of the 15.9 million Australians who use the online environment on a regular basis.

As such, there has been a marked increase in stories about councils taking up new media, from the development of community service apps, or apps for regional promotion, to the use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for community engagement and marketing.

More and more stories are emerging around this topic, so watch out for our coverage in up-coming issues of LG Focus, and for ideas as to ways you can move your council into the Web 2.0 century.