Effectiveness indicators for key strategies
Governments and community bodies endorsing future local government financial assistance arrangements
Key strategy: Ensure the Commonwealth assists in providing efficient and effective local government by reviewing the current local government financial assistance policies.
The Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 (the Act) is a key mechanism for the Department to assist local governments to become more effective in serving their communities.
The Act provides for Financial Assistance Grants to be distributed to local governments in accordance with the National Principles and recommendations by State local government ministers. One of the cornerstone principles is that, where councils, through no fault of their own, have relatively higher costs in providing services or relatively lower ability to raise revenue, they should receive relatively higher grants. The grants are untied but a considerable proportion of the grants is spent on roads.
Officers of the Department provided administrative assistance to the Minister in accordance with the act to assist local government.
Recommendations from the Commonwealth Grants Commission were received during the year and considered in a review of the Act.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration Inquiry into Local Government and Cost Shifting has commenced. This Inquiry will further examine the Commonwealth Grants Commission Review of the act and will lead to more effective and efficient local government.
Local governments providing additional benefits to people by instituting better practices, sharing information and being more innovative
Key strategy: Facilitate the development of leading practice in local governance.
The National Awards for Local Government and the Development Assessment Forum are two important initiatives sponsored by the Department that encourage local governments to develop leading practices in their administration and operations.
The National Awards for Local Government are a flagship demonstration of leading practice in local government. They highlight innovative work being undertaken by local government in communities across Australia to improve business practice within councils and service delivery to communities. The Awards recognise ingenuity, resourcefulness and self-reliance and identify and promote councils which are finding new ways of delivering services and developing local solutions to complex and challenging problems.
In 2001, Casey City Council from Victoria and Coorong District Council from South Australia were the overall winners of the Awards. The City of Casey brokered an innovative arrangement with industry, State Government and schools to develop the information technology (IT) skills of young people to help create long-term employment opportunities for its young people. The Coorong District Council developed the first reported community-based regional telecommunications network, which involved building an alternative telecommunications infrastructure, including microwave towers and Voice over Internet Protocol technology.
Through the associated Leading Practice Seminar Series, award winning councils such as the City of Casey and Coorong District Council share their achievements with other local government bodies. Well over 100 councils across Australia have benefitted from this exchange of knowledge and expertise.
In 2002 the Awards attracted 373 entries in 11 categories, an increase of 27 per cent over the previous year. The categories cover core council services, business and regional development, and community services aimed at building sustainable Australian communities.
The Awards for 2002 were launched at the Local Government Managers Conference in May 2002 and award winners will be announced on 4 November 2002 at the Australian Local Government Association's National General Assembly in Alice Springs.
The Department also provides the secretariat for the Development Assessment Forum, within the Territories and Local Government Division. Members of the Forum are the Commonwealth, the States and Territories, local government, development industries and relevant professional associations.
The Forum's purpose is to achieve agreement throughout Australia on ways to improve the development approval process and cut red tape without sacrificing the quality of decision making. The Forum decides its own work programme in response to emerging national needs. Examples of its work include the development of protocols and standards for the electronic lodgement and processing of applications.
In the year under review, the Forum issued a set of agreed National Development Assessment Definitions and the Good Strategic Planning Guide.
The continued dynamism of these programmes will ensure that local government in Australia will be well placed for the challenges of the future.