Linda Scott President Local Government NSW – President’s comment

Article image - Linda Scott President Local Government NSW  – President’s comment

New South Wales (NSW), like every other State in Australia, is dealing with unprecedented challenges, so there has never been a more important time for councils to drive a locally led economic recovery on behalf of their communities.

To do that, we need to see Federal and State governments working in new and better ways with councils.

During the past 12 months, many NSW councils have bravely struggled to support their communities through an extended drought that sunk regional dam levels to new lows. This was closely followed by 'Black Summer' bushfires, which plunged 50 local government areas into a state of emergency.

I am so proud of the frontline leadership mayors, councillors and the local government workforce provided in this time.

This includes the significant number of councillors and council staff who donned firefighting gear, and staff who provided support via the Local Government NSW (LGNSW) bushfire task force recovery to work in affected areas, away from their homes.

The embers had barely cooled when the coronavirus pandemic made itself felt. As 10,000 jobs were lost each day nationally under COVID-19, LGNSW launched its Locally Led Recovery and Resilience campaign.

NSW local governments stood up to literally feed and clothe communities, drive locally led employment and procurement and drive support to every corner of the state.

So councils can continue to do this, we are calling for State and Federal government financial assistance and economic stimulus to secure delivery of the essential local government services needed to keep our communities running.

We’ve begun to see positive outcomes in NSW through our advocacy, including our State’s unique $395 million Local Government stimulus package to offset the impacts of COVID-19 on council revenue.

This is particularly important given the Federal Government’s exclusion of councils from the JobKeeper Program.

We’re proud to have secured an $81 million funding commitment for council-run childcare services and $51 million for preschools, plus new and accelerated funding for local roads, footpaths, cycling and other community infrastructure.

LGNSW also paved the way for our sector to retain as many skilled employees as possible during this period thanks to the Local Government (COVID-19) Splinter (Interim) Award 2020, developed alongside the local government unions.

Councils will benefit from a $2.5 billion Federal Government funding commitment to a skilled economy, including reform of the VET sector, keeping apprentices and trainees in jobs and setting up a JobTrainer Fund.

To really see the benefits of a locally led recovery, we need the Federal Government to restore Federal Assistance Grants to 1 percent of GDP, as they were under the Keating Government.

With this funding, councils across Australia – best placed to know the needs of their communities – can lead their communities beyond the challenges of the past 12 months.

Local government also needs a seat at the National Cabinet table: a voice to ensure local governments are best playing their part, in a coordinated way, on the road to recovery.

By working together in a cohesive partnership, our 128 NSW councils are building a better, stronger, more resilient future for the communities they serve.