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Report on performance

Outcome 3 - Regional Development and Local Government

Output 3.2.1 - Local government policy and programs

Highlights

In 2008-09, the Department established and began delivering funding under the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. This included:

  • establishing the $250.0 million direct allocation and the $550.0 million competitive grants components of the program;
  • delivering payments to all eligible local government authorities for 3,220 projects under the direct allocation component; and
  • finalising funding agreements and making first payments to 136 of the 137 successful local government authorities under the competitive grants component.

The Australian Council of Local Government was established to forge a new partnership between the Australian Government and local governments. The inaugural meeting was held in November 2008 and a second meeting in June 2009. In addition the council appointed a steering committee that held two meetings in 2009.

The National Awards for Local Government recognise, reward and promote the innovative work of local governments across Australia. The awards continue to be strongly supported. In 2008, 13 winners were selected for 10 categories; in 2009, 21 winners were selected for 11 categories.

The Department managed a competitive process to select a university to host the Centre of Excellence for Local Government. In June 2009, the Prime Minister announced that a consortium led by the University of Technology, Sydney, was the successful applicant, and funding of $8.0 million was provided to establish the centre.

The Department provided ongoing:

  • advice to Council of Australian Governments working groups on the issues of development assessment reform and land use planning; and
  • policy development and secretariat support to the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council and Development Assessment Forum.

To assist local government deal with the effects of the global financial crisis, the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 was amended to enable the Australian Government to bring forward $480 million in financial assistance grants. The Department delivered the grants in June 2009.

Overview

Output 3.2.1 is delivered through the work of the Local Government and Regional Development division which advises the Australian Government on local government issues, and delivers funding and programs that assist local governments to serve their communities. In 2008-09 the output included the following administered programs:

  • Establishment of a local government centre of excellence;1
  • Local Government Financial Assistance Grants;
  • Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program;1 and
  • Supplementary funding to South Australian councils for local roads.

The budget and actual expenditure for each administered program is listed in Appendix A.

1 This program was introduced in the 2008-09 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements.

Summary of performance

Table 5.3 summarises the Department's results in delivering Output 3.2.1 against the key performance indicators and targets published in the 2008-09 PBS.

Table 5.3 Summary of performance - Output 3.2.1

Key performance indicator Target Result
Outputs

The Council of Australian Local Governments is established

By January 2009.

The inaugural meeting of the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) was held in Canberra on 18 November 2008.

First two meetings of COALG

By 30 June 2009.

The council met in November 2008 and June 2009. The Council's steering committee met in February 2009 and June 2009.

COALG considers consultation process for the Constitutional recognition of local government

By 30 June 2009.

The council affirmed its commitment to advancing constitutional recognition of local government, and is consulting widely to identify options for the Australian Government to consider.

2008 National Awards for Local Government announced

By 31 December 2008.

The 2008 National Awards for Local Government were presented in November 2008 and the 2009 Awards were presented in June 2009.

Support for Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council meetings

Efficient and effective manner.

Meetings were held in August 2008 (Hobart) and May 2009 (Sydney). The Development Assessment Reform Ministerial Subgroup was established to fast-track critical reforms, and met in August, September and March.

Table 5.4 provides a summary of the results achieved by each of the programs administered under Output 3.2.1 against the key performance indicators and targets published in the 2008-09 PBS.

Table 5.4 Summary of performance - Output 3.2.1 administered programs

Key performance indicators and targets
Applicable administered program Key performance indicator
Target

All programs

Efficient and effective management of administered programs

Programs are administered in accordance with relevant legislation, published guidelines and ANAO guidance.

Results
Administered program Result

Establishment of a local government centre of excellencea

Following a competitive process, the successful body to establish the Centre of Excellence for Local Government was announced in June 2009.

Local Government Financial Assistance Grants

A total of $2.4 billion in quarterly instalments was paid through the states and territories to 565 local government bodies and the ACT.

Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Programa

All funds in the $250 million direct allocation component of the program were allocated. The funded projects commenced and presented their first reports to the Department.

The Department assessed 484 applications for funding under the $550 million competitive grants component, and 136 of the approved 137 projects received initial payments.

Supplementary funding to South Australian councils for local roads

A total of $14 million in grants was paid to 73 local government bodies in South Australia.

a This program was introduced in the 2008-09 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements.

Detailed report on performance

The following report is against the headings from the applicable output from the 2008-09 PBS.

I    Assisting local governments to provide residents with an equitable level of services

The Department administers financial assistance grants that assist councils to provide municipal services and infrastructure. In 2008-09, the Australian Government provided local government with $2.4 billion in untied financial assistance grants, allowing local government bodies to spend the grants according to local priorities. The grants were distributed to 565 local governments and the ACT.

The Department also administers supplementary funding to South Australian councils to offset the disadvantage to these councils under the distribution of financial assistance grants identified for local roads. In 2008-09, grants totalling $14 million were distributed to 73 local government bodies in South Australia.

In May 2009 the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 was amended to enable the government to bring forward $480 million in financial assistance grants. These payments were made to jurisdictions in June 2009.

II    Strengthening the role of local government

In 2008-09, the Department helped to establish two institutions that will strengthen the role of local government:

  • the ACLG, which provides opportunities for dialogue between the Australian Government and local governments; and
  • the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, which promotes excellence and innovation in the local government sector.

The Department also provided support for ongoing activities to strengthen and promote local government, such as the work of the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council and the National Awards for Local Government.

Establishing the Australian Council of Local Government

The inaugural plenary meeting of the ACLG was held on 18 November 2008, with more than 400 mayors and shire presidents in attendance. The meeting provided the opportunity to forge a new partnership between the Australian Government and local governments. The second plenary meeting was held in June 2009, focusing on challenges facing local government through the theme 'Building resilience in local communities'. The council appointed a steering committee that met twice in 2009.

Consulting on constitutional recognition of local government

The Australian Government has stated that it supports a debate on the issue of constitutional recognition of local government and that it is willing to receive local government recommendations on the development of a process to achieve such recognition.

The question of constitutional recognition was addressed at the first meeting of the ACLG in November 2008. Subsequently, the Australian Local Government Association Constitutional Summit held in December 2008 achieved an agreed position for discussion. The summit produced a statement on local governments' efforts to build support for constitutional recognition.

Promoting best practice through the National Awards for Local Government

The National Awards for Local Government recognise, reward and promote the innovative work of local governments across Australia, showcasing unique local solutions to common problems. Independent panels judge entries for category and national winners. The 2008 awards were presented in November 2008 and consisted of 13 winners for the 10 categories, with 15 commendations; 71 councils took part, submitting 114 entries.

The 2009 awards were presented in June 2009. The theme 'Local Government - Building Australian Communities' attracted 233 entries for the 11 award categories. A total of 12 large (greater than 15,000 rateable properties) and nine small local governments were recognised in the awards (some awards were presented to partnerships). A large and small National Winner was selected from the category winners:

  • Newcastle City Council, New South Wales (Large National Winner)
    Project: ClimateCam - International Test laboratory
    The council developed the world's first greenhouse gas speedometer to measure and report progress on its local greenhouse action plan.
  • Carpentaria Shire Council, Queensland (Small National Winner)
    Project: Domestic Violence - it's not our game
    The council partnered with the Normanton Stingers Rugby League Club on a community campaign designed to create positive local role models, reduce the prevalence of domestic violence and create a safer community.

Supporting the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council

The Department provides policy development and secretariat support to the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council. The Council is a forum for discussions between local government and planning ministers from across Australia and New Zealand, and the President of the ALGA.

The council held two meetings in 2008-09. It endorsed principles to improve local government's long-term financial sustainability, and took steps to lift the efficiency and effectiveness of development assessment systems.

In August 2008 the ministerial council agreed to establish a ministerialsubgroup to expedite its development assessment reform agenda.

Creating the Centre of Excellence for Local Government

The Centre of Excellence for Local Government will enhance professionalism and showcase innovation and best practice in local government in Australia.

In 2008-09, the Department conducted a competitive process, within required timeframes and in accordance with legal and financial requirements, to select a university to house the centre. The opportunity generated strong interest within the university sector. A consortium led by the University of Technology, Sydney, was selected. A funding agreement was negotiated and a grant of $8 million to establish the centre was paid to the university in June 2009.

Improving infrastructure through the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program

The Department administers the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, which provides funding to local government authorities to fund construction and renewal of local infrastructure to stimulate growth and economic activity across Australia.

The program was announced in November 2008 and its funding was increased in February 2009 as part of the Nation Building-Economic Stimulus Plan. It consists of a $250 million direct allocation component and a $550 million national competitive grants component. On 25 June 2009 the Prime Minister announced an additional $220 million for the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, bringing the total value of this program to $1 billion.

All of the direct allocation funding was paid to eligible local government authorities in 2008-09; projects are underway and the Department received the first progress reports from councils in May 2009. For the competitive grants component, 484 funding applications collectively seeking more than $2.1 billion were received and assessed, and 137 projects were successful. At 30 June 2009, initial payments had been made to 136 of 137 projects.

On 25 June 2009, additional funding of $220 million was announced, for expenditure in 2009-10.

The Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program was reported in the 2008-09 PBS as component V of Output 3.1.1. The funding for the program was announced at the ACLG in November 2008 with the funding detailed under Output 3.2.1 in the 2008-09 PAES.

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