Mayor Sam Telfer – President’s comment
President Local Government Association of South Australia (LGA of SA
The past few months have reinforced the strength, relevance and value of local government, especially during challenging times.
In South Australia, councils worked closely with state agencies to respond to COVID-19. This included conducting more than 100,000 compliance checks while educating their communities about social distancing requirements.
Despite many staff working from home, South Australian councils have continued to deliver essential services such as maintenance programs, library, health and aged care services, waste collection, and progressing planning applications.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and some of the innovative solutions implemented by the sector have included moving library, community development and wellbeing services online, and councils conducting welfare checks by phone.
Councils also increased their focus on caring for vulnerable people in their communities. This included reviewing their hardship policies, and other programs to ensure targeted support was provided to households, businesses and community groups that needed it most
From an economic development perspective, many councils have developed business support packages, run campaigns to promote businesses that stayed open, reduced permit or license fees, provided rent relief to commercial tenants and implemented new grant funding programs.
We even saw some providing meals vouchers for local restaurants and cafes as a means of supporting both impacted hospitality businesses and local residents.
As we transition from response to recovery, local government still has an important role to play, but partnerships are crucial.
The LGA of SA recently commissioned a report from the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies that identified bringing forward strategic infrastructure projects as the best opportunity for councils to support post COVID-19 economic recovery.
Some councils have already started this process, often with support from other tiers of government.
Councils collect less than four percent of taxes. On our own we can do a little; but working together with state and federal governments we can do a lot.
The Commonwealth’s recent $500 million Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is a good start; and will see South Australian councils receive around $40 million to deliver key projects.
However, further assistance – from all tiers of government – will support councils to do more.
South Australian councils have $340 million of projects that could be implemented with funding support, and the LGA of SA continues to advocate for new funding programs.
South Australian councils are keen to play their part in supporting our State’s recovery, and we look forward to working as a partner in government and part of the solution to the challenges facing our State.