Stronger federal-local partnership towards nation building

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will convene the inaugural meeting of the new Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) in late November, inviting all mayors and shire presidents.

The one-day meeting in Canberra will see a gathering of Australia’s 565 local councils to discuss issues of national and local infrastructure, urban congestion and planning as well as the constitutional recognition for local government.

“The Rudd Government is reigniting the spirit of cooperative federalism and reaching directly to the level of government closest to the community,” Mr Rudd said. 

“We intend to use this as an opportunity to engage with local government direct on their future partnership…on this Government’s nation building program for the future.”

President of the Australian Local Government Association, Paul Bell welcomed the move, saying the creation of the ACLG would forge the bond between Federal and Local governments.

“The council heralds the beginning of the Federal Government building a stronger relationship with local government and communities across Australia,” Cr Bell said. “Local government’s aim is to make sure that this is a substantial engagement on important issues that affect the lives of all Australians.”

WA Local Government Association president Bill Mitchell said the meeting would enable local authorities and communities to voice their immediate concerns to the Federal Government.

“A national forum should highlight a number of critical issues currently faced by Local governments nationwide, such as infrastructure development and renewal and the need to explore sources of funding for the delivery of services at the local level,” Cr Mitchell said.

The ACLG was developed to address the rising cost of infrastructure provision and growing demand for services in local communities, building on a $2.2 billion investment for local governments this year through financial assistance grants and the Roads to Recovery program.

According to a Productivity Commission’s report, 20 per cent of local councils depended on federal and state grants for half of their revenue.

Cr Bell said the recognition of local government was a key to build a more responsive national system.   

“The federal system, we believe, without local government, does not reflect what is now in place in our system of federation,” he said.

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