Regional development and local government

Program 3.2-Local government

Highlights

The Australian Government hosted the third meeting of the Australian Council of Local Government, the nation's largest gathering of mayors and shire presidents, at Parliament House on 18 June 2010. This meeting provided participants with the opportunity to contribute directly to the national local government policy debate and to discuss with the Prime Minister and federal ministers a range of issues including the impact of national policies and programs on their local communities and opportunities for new and enhanced cooperation between the Australian Government and local governments. During the meeting, the Prime Minister announced the two winners of the National Awards for Excellence in Local Government and an additional investment of $100.0 million into community infrastructure such as libraries, community centres and sports-grounds and facilities.

The Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government opened in December 2009, and is funded through an $8.0 million grant from the Australian Government. Based at the University of Technology, Sydney, the centre is part of a consortium with the Australian and New Zealand School of Government, the University of Canberra, Local Government Managers Australia and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia.

The first quarter allocation of the 2010–11 Financial Assistance Grants funding was brought forward to the 2009–10 financial year to help councils take advantage of the global recovery.

During 2009–10 funding of $331.9 million was provided for 1,592 community infrastructure projects under rounds one and two of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. Projects were identified by local communities as priority investments for their regions. Under rounds one and two 3,222 projects were completed.

The $25.0 million Local Government Reform Fund was established to improve the sustainability of local councils. The fund is aimed at fast tracking improvements to local government infrastructure asset and financial management; and at encouraging collaboration and cooperation between councils, particularly in service delivery and planning. To date the Minister has announced projects totalling $16.4 million under the fund, with $50,000 paid in 2009–10.

The year 2010 is the Year of Women in Local Government. On 9 October 2009, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and the Minister for Housing and the Status of Women announced that the Australian Government would provide $0.5 million for projects to help improve the participation of women in local government around Australia.

Overview

Program 3.2 was delivered through the work of the Local Government and Regional Development Division by providing advice to the Australian Government on local government issues and delivering its components.

The Program included the following administered items:

  • Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program1
  • Local Government Financial Assistance Grants
  • Local Government Reform Fund, and
  • Supplementary funding to South Australian councils for local roads.

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

Summary of performance

Tables 5.4 and 5.5 summarise the Department's results in delivering Program 3.2 against the key performance indicators and deliverables and their targets published in the 2009–10 PBS.

Table 5.4 Summary of performance-Program 3.2 key performance indicators
Key performance indicator Target Result
Deliver policy advice on local government matters that supports the Government's agenda and builds capacity in local government to meet new or emerging challenges. The advice is used to support the Government's initiatives and assist local government's responses to emerging challenges and pursue better practice initiativesa. Achieved
The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government were briefed on building local government capacity through the Local Government Reform Fund, the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG), the Local Government Financial Assistance Grants, the National Awards for Local Government, the Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government and the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council (LGPMC).
Implement items that enhance the capacity of local government to manage their infrastructure and financial planning responsibilities, through best practice governance arrangements and targeted investment. Local government increases its capacity to plan and manage their finances and infrastructureb. Achieved
Applications for the Local Government Reform Fund were received from states and territories and assessed. By 30 June 2010 funding had been announced for projects in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

aThis target was modified in the 2009–10 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements; it was previously ‘The advice is used to support the Government's initiatives and local government's responds to emerging challenges and pursue better practice initiatives.’

bThis target was modified in the 2009–10 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements; it was previously ‘Local government increases its capacity to plan and manage investment’.

Results Key  
Not achieved None or minimal progress was made against targets in 2009–10
Partially achieved Some targets were met, and any issues are being managed
Substantially achieved Targets were mostly met, and any issues are being managed
Achieved All targets for 2009–10 were met or exceeded

1 The title of this administered item was changed from Community Infrastructure Program and advised in the 2009–10 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements.

Table 5.5 Summary of performance-Program 3.2 deliverables
Deliverable Target Result
Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program funding provided to local government as part of the Nation Building—Economic Stimulus Plan. Ensure that projects that received funding are delivered on time and on budget. Of the projects that were approved for funding under Round 1 of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program:
  • under the $250.0 million program component, 3,197 projects have been completed, and
  • under the $550.0 million program component, $208.5 million has been paid against milestones and three projects have reached practical completion.
All activities funded by the Australian Government are due to be completed by July 2012.
National Awards for Local Government—the NALG are characterised by higher levels of participation, increased prestige and opportunities for showcasing innovation and best practice. Participation rates increase to enhance quality and competitiveness of awards. Winners of the 2010 National Awards for Local Government were announced on 17 June 2010. While slightly fewer entries were received this year (216) than in 2009, the number of councils submitting entries increased from 113 to 118.
Support for Local Government and Planning Minister's Council meetings. Meetings held once a year that promote nationally consistent approaches to local government and planning matters. The LGPMC met twice, at:
  • a meeting in Darwin on 8 and 9 October 2009, which included a joint session with the ACLG Steering Committee, and
  • a meeting in Canberra on 12 February 2010, which included a session with the Housing Ministers' Conference to collaborate on the Council of Australian Governments' housing supply and affordability agenda.
Key local government matters considered by the LGPMC included the Australian Government's Local Government Reform Fund; the endorsement of a strategy to increase the levels of participation by women at both elected and senior management levels; and an agreement to develop a workforce strategy aimed at strengthening capacity building in the sector.

During the year the LGPMC continued to oversee the implementation of land use planning reforms, including streamlined approvals processes; enhanced strategic planning systems in cities; and responding to climate change.
Annual meeting of the ACLG—the ACLG meets annually to address issues of national significance and develop strategies and policies to meet emerging challenges. Meetings address nationally significant issues affecting local government. The third ALCG meeting held on 18 June 2010 continued the Australian Government's ongoing dialogue with local government.
The Centre of Excellence for Local Government is established and commences operations—the Centre builds capacity through the delivery of a range of programs to local government and to contribute to the public policy debate on local government operations and showcases best practice initiatives. Centre for Excellence established and commenced operation. The Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government was officially opened on 14 December 2009, and an annual project plan for 2010 was released.
Efficient and effective management of administered items. Items are administered in accordance with relevant legislation, published guidelines and ANAO guidance. Administered in accordance with relevant legislation and guidelines.

Table 5.6 provides a summary of the results achieved by each of the administered items under Program 3.2.

Table 5.6 Summary of performance-Program 3.2 administered items
Administered item Result
Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program All funds in the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program Round 2 $100.0 million direct allocation component were allocated. The projects commenced and the majority of first reports were received and assessed.

The Department assessed 190 projects for funding under the program's Round 2 $120.0 million competitive grants component. Of the 48 approved projects, 17 received their initial payments.
Local Government Financial Assistance Grants The Australian Government paid a total of $1,954.6 million in Financial Assistance Grants; this total included an advance payment of one quarter of the 2010–11 entitlement, to ensure that local governments have immediate use of funds to take maximum advantage of the global recovery and to prepare for future challenges.
Supplementary funding to South Australian councils for local roads South Australian local governing bodies received $14.8 million in supplementary local road funding.
Local Government Reform Fund Guidelines and operating arrangements for the fund were announced in October 2009. Funding proposals developed by state and territory governments in consultation with local government were sought. Projects were announced for Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Detailed report on performance

The following report is against the components of Program 3.2 as set out in the 2009–10 PBS.

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

The Australian Government provides Financial Assistance Grants to local governments under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995.

In 2009–10, the Australian Government paid a total of $1,954.6 million in Financial Assistance Grants. This total included an advance payment of the first quarter payment of the 2010–11 entitlement, to ensure that local governments have immediate use of funds to help them take maximum advantage of the global recovery and to prepare for future challenges.

South Australian local governing bodies received $14.8 million in supplementary local road funding in 2009–10. This funding was allocated to local governing bodies in accordance with the recommendations of the South Australian Local Government Grants Commission. Eighty-five per cent of the supplementary funding was allocated to local governing bodies in accordance with their share of local road Financial Assistance Grants, while the remainder of the funding was allocated to special local road projects.

The Department administered funds for projects under the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. As at 30 June 2010:

  • of the Round 1 projects commenced in 2008–09
    • 3,197 projects funded under the $250 million direct allocation component were complete, and
    • three projects funded under the $550 million competitive grants component were complete, and $208.5 million had been paid to projects as agreed milestones were achieved, and
  • of the Round 2 projects commenced in 2009–10
    • all funds in the $100 million direct allocation component had been allocated, and
    • under the $120 million competitive grants component, 109 projects had been assessed, 48 had been approved and 17 had received initial payments.

II. Strengthening the role of local government

The Department played a key role in delivery of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, a more than $1.1 billion initiative available to local governments to support local jobs and provide long-term benefits to communities by renewing and upgrading local infrastructure.

The third meeting of the Australian Council of Local Government, held at Parliament House in Canberra on 18 June 2010, brought together more than 400 local government representatives, federal ministers and parliamentary secretaries. Discussions continued the Australian Government's ongoing dialogue with local government on improving the delivery of infrastructure and services to local communities.

The Australian Government has announced that it will provide $250,000 to the Australian Local Government Association to raise the profile of constitutional recognition of local government, particularly in local communities.

The Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government, funded through an $8.0 million grant from the Australian Government, was officially opened by the Minister on 14 December 2009. The centre released its first annual project plan, detailing its program of activities for 2010.

The 2010 winners of the National Awards for Local Government, which recognise, reward and promote the innovative work of local governments across Australia, were announced by the Prime Minister and the Minister on 17 June 2010.

The Australian Government established the Local Government Reform Fund to:

  • improve capability in local government, to achieve better outcomes for communities through asset management and financial planning processes and anticipation of infrastructure needs, and
  • encourage collaboration between councils.

Guidelines and operating arrangements for the reform fund were announced at the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council meeting held in Darwin in October 2009. The Australian Government subsequently sought funding proposals for projects that addressed the program objectives, developed by the state and territory governments in consultation with local government stakeholders. Projects have been announced for Victoria (nearly $2.4 million), Western Australia ($2.3 million), South Australia (up to $2.7 million) and the Northern Territory (up to $1.4 million).

The year 2010 is the Year of Women in Local Government. On 9 October 2009, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and the Minister for Housing and the Status of Women announced that the Australian Government will provide $0.5 million for projects to help improve the participation of women in local government around Australia, including:

  • $100,000 to the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government for the collection of nationally consistent data on women in local government
  • $100,000 to support the participation of women in an Excellence in Local Government Leadership program being developed by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, and
  • $100,000 contribution towards the Australian Local Government Women's Association's $250,000 50:50 Vision-Councils for Gender Equity accreditation program.
Case study-Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program

The Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program (RLCIP) is part of an Australian Government initiative to stimulate the economy, provide community infrastructure, strengthen links between levels of government, and encourage local government authorities to work together.

The program provides funding to local government authorities for infrastructure projects they have identified. Since its introduction, in November 2008, the RLCIP has made more than $1.1 billion available for more than 4,800 projects to build and modernise community infrastructure.

The RLCIP is divided into two components, enabling local governments to consider both small and larger infrastructure projects. One component directly allocates funds to all councils on a proportional basis, while the other awards funds to successful councils based on a competitive application process. The non-competitive, allocated component allows local government bodies to spend funds on a range of small or medium-sized projects of their choice-one council chose more than 40 projects to fund through its allocation. The competitive, application-based component is aimed at larger, strategic projects.

Round 1 of the allocated component of the RLCIP provided $250.0 million for small infrastructure projects which local government bodies identified and selected themselves, based on local knowledge of their community needs. Projects funded under Round 1 which were completed during the 2009–10 financial year include:

  • five projects chosen by the Central Coast Council in Tasmania-the resulting refurbishment of two community halls, upgrades to showground meeting facilities and a community centre kitchen, and completion of a seawall and footpath linking two beaches will provide positive community space for locals as well as potential tourist attractions, and
  • nine projects chosen by the Warrnambool City Council in Victoria-one of the projects saw the council collaborate with its neighbour, the Moyne Shire Council, to construct a 37 kilometre rail trail from the Moyne River in Port Fairy through Koroit to Warrnambool. The RLCIP funds helped to construct boardwalks for the rail trail's low-lying areas along the Merri River. The Warrnambool City Council's other projects covered diverse community interests, and included improving sport and recreation facilities, refurbishing Warrnambool's History House, and making the Warrnambool Airport power supply and telecommunications ready for an emergency air ambulance helicopter.

Through both rounds of the RLCIP, the experience of local government authorities identifying and delivering locally valued infrastructure projects has been repeated in all 566 local government areas (including the Australian Capital Territory).

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Last Updated: 24 October, 2014