Local governments which serve their communities more efficiently and effectively
The department administers the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995.
The Act requires funding to be provided through the states to local government for the purposes of improving:
- the financial capacity of local government
- the capacity of councils to provide their residents with an equitable level of services
- certainty of funding for local government
- efficiency and effectiveness of councils
- provision by councils of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
In 2002-03 under this Act the Commonwealth provided $1.455 billion to local government in untied financial assistance grants to assist them serve their communities more efficiently and effectively. These grants comprise about 10 per cent of local government expenditure.
To increase the transparency and accountability of the states in respect of the allocation of these grants and to assess the performance of local government, the Act requires the Federal Local Government Minister to table in parliament an annual report on the operation of the Act. The 2001-02 report, prepared by the department, was tabled in March 2003.
The department manages and sponsors the National Awards for Local Government. These awards seek to foster and acknowledge innovation and continuous improvement in local government. The 2002 Awards attracted 373 entries across 11 categories and were announced in Alice Springs at the Australian Local Government Conference in November 2002.
In May 2002, the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government established a parliamentary inquiry into local government and cost shifting. The inquiry, being undertaken by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration, sought submissions to the inquiry, issued a discussion paper, At the Crossroads, and held public hearings in relation to the inquiry in 2002-03. The department made six submissions to the inquiry and appeared at two public hearings.
The second Local Government Roundtable was convened in Melbourne on 29 April 2003. The meeting between the minister and the presidents of local government associations provides an opportunity for the minister to meet local government leaders face-to-face to hear about the challenges faced by councils and their communities. It aims to promote dialogue and to assist in developing policy initiatives. The roundtable demonstrated the value the Commonwealth places on a partnership with local government.