6 April 2021
Grants overhaul needed
Given the width, depth and breadth of what councils do for their communities, they need a fair shake at every State and Federal cent they can get to carry out projects for their communities.
What we discovered with the release of a Parliamentary report last week is that they do not always get that fair shake.
The NSW Parliamentary inquiry into the current grants system, chaired by David Shoebridge MLC, found programs such as the $252 million Stronger Communities Fund, designed to help amalgamated councils ameliorate the cost of forced amalgamations, was blatantly misused.
The Public Accountability Committee report also said the grants system was “broken and in need to a fundamental overhaul”.
Councils absolutely rely on State and Federal support for the vast and ever-growing range of infrastructure and services they provide their communities. They rely on grants to help underwrite vital local projects.
The current model of grant funding is flawed and must be replaced with a clear and transparent funding formula, one that is predictable and provides multi-year funding agreements.
This would give councils certainty and allow them to plan ahead to ensure the effective and efficient use of taxpayer funds.
It is unacceptable that councils and their communities miss out on funding for political reasons.
I personally welcome this report’s recommendation for Government to work with LGNSW to come up with a better way for determining grants and I look forward to a closer working relationship in the future to achieve equitable outcomes for all of our communities.
The full report, including recommendations coming out of the inquiry, can be seen here.
State and Federal flood clean-up assistance
I am pleased that our advocacy efforts for councils facing the daunting task of cleaning up their flood-affected communities has resulted in the announcement of State and Federal support to help with the job.
I spent the week immediately following the floods speaking to State and Federal members on both sides of the political fence to raise awareness and ensure councils were given everything they need to provide a locally led recovery for their communities.
As a result, the State and Federal governments have promised a range of clean-up support through the NSW Storm and Flood Clean-up Program.
The program includes clean-up “strike forces” made up of Australian Defence Force, Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW personnel to help with debris removal from residences, flood damaged roads, sporting fields and environmental assets such as beaches.
Financial assistance will also be provided for flood-impacted small businesses and primary producers.
The assistance measures follow on from the NSW Government waiving its Waste Levy fee for people disposing of flood-generated waste across 34 local government areas, so they could use local tips without having to pay tip fees.
We have been calling on the Government to permanently waive the levy it collects – around $800 million annually – in the event of natural disasters such as fires and floods to allow councils to focus on getting their communities back on their feet.
People who endure disasters such as the recent floods already face heartbreaking loss and an arduous clean-up effort. They should not be hit with tip fees on top of that.
For more information on assistance available contact the NSW Government’s Disaster Customer Care program or Service NSW on 13 77 88. Our advocacy team can also provide further advice on assistance for councils.
Last week Channel 9 came under cyber attack from hackers, bringing their news productions to a screeching halt and highlighting the vulnerability we all face in this arena. Councils increasingly rely on digital technology to serve their communities and are also potential targets of cyber attacks.
LGNSW’s calls for the NSW Government to provide financial support for councils so they can beef up their cyber security capabilities have been heard and I am pleased to report that our recommendation for council funding has been adopted by a cyber security report tabled in Parliament last week.
We look forward to the NSW Government’s consideration of this recommendation.
Download the full report
Locally led launch – get your tickets now
We are officially launching our Locally Led – Working Together for a Better NSW campaign at a breakfast at The Fullerton Hotel Sydney on April 21.
We want to send a strong message to Government that councils are best placed to lead their communities in an economic recovery. To enable that, we need the State and Federal governments to work with us in a genuine partnership.
I am hoping you will join council representatives from across NSW and take part in this event to demonstrate our united front on this campaign.
As part of the event, Public Accountability Committee head David Shoebridge MLC will outline his proposal to replace the current model of grant funding with a clear and transparent funding formula, to give councils greater certainty in their budget planning process.
Attendees will also have a chance to speak directly to NSW Government and Opposition decision-makers as part of LGNSW’s “Locally Led” approach to driving economic recovery and growth for our NSW communities.
It will also be an invaluable networking opportunity and I hope to see you there.
For more information and to book tickets please give LGNSW a call or go to our website.
Local Government Week Award nominations
LGNSW’s Local Government Awards nominations are now open.
These highly valued awards recognise the outstanding achievements of the NSW local government sector and their communities, celebrating excellence in communications, planning, culture and youth.
During the awards, which take place as part of Local Government Week, the best projects will be awarded in the following categories:
- The RH Dougherty Award;
- The Leo Kelly OAM Arts and Culture Award; and
- The LGNSW Planning Award sponsored by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
The local government sector’s night of nights is due to take place on Thursday 5 August 2021 at the Hotel Swissôtel Sydney.
I encourage you to enter at least one and ideally all the categories for the opportunity to trumpet your council’s achievements from the rooftops.
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