Facts and figures
Population: 23, 425, 700 (as at March 2014)
Rates collected: $15b (in 2013-14)
Total expenditure in 2014-15: $34b
Total road length: 670,000km (State of Local Road Assets Report 2014)
Number of employees: 188,900 (as at June 2014)
Value of infrastructure: $180b local roads infrastructure (State of the Local Road Asset Report 2015).
Replacement value of total land and fixed assets in 2014-15 was $438 billion.
The first local government established in Australia was in Adelaide in 1840.
Australia's largest council by population is Brisbane City Council, servicing a population of 1.2 million.
Australia's largest council by area is East Pilbara in Western Australia. It covers an area of 379,571 square kilometres, has a population of 12,960 and 3,237 kilometres of roads.
Australia has had four Prime Ministers who served on local government authorities.
- John Gorton (Kerang Shire Council)
- Ben Chifley (Abercrombie Shire Council)
- Earle Page (South Grafton Council)
- Arthur Fadden (Townsville City Council)
Constitutional responsibility for local government lies with the state and territory governments. Consequently, the roles and responsibilities of local government differ from state to state. Functions include:
- infrastructure and property services, including local roads, bridges, footpaths, drainage, waste collection and management
- provision of recreation facilities, such as parks, sports fields and stadiums, golf courses, swimming pools, sport centres, halls, camping grounds and caravan parks
- health services such as water and food inspection, immunisation services, toilet facilities, noise control and meat inspection and animal control
- community services, such as child care, aged care and accommodation, community care and welfare services
- building services, including inspections, licensing, certification and enforcement
- planning and development approval
- administration of facilities, such as airports and aerodromes, ports and marinas, cemeteries, parking facilities and street parking;
- cultural facilities and services, such as libraries, art galleries and museums
- water and sewerage services in some states
- other services, such as abattoirs, sale-yards and group purchasing schemes
In aggregate, councils raise more than 80 percent of their own revenue. Individual councils have differing abilities to raise revenue, based on location, population size, rate base and the ability to levy user charges. All affect a council's ability to raise revenue.
Local government revenue comes from three main sources - taxation (rates), user charges and grants from Federal and state/territory governments. A fourth source, categorised as 'miscellaneous' by the ABS, consists of revenue raised through the likes of investment interest, dividend interest, income from public enterprise and fines.
Rates account for about 35 percent of total revenue. Rates comprise just 3.4 percent (2014-2015) of tax raised by all levels of government and is the only tax levied by local government, of 260 taxes in Australia.
More than a quarter of total local government revenue comes from user charges.
Overall, grants and subsidies from the Australian and state/territory governments account for around 10 percent of total revenue. For some rural and remote councils where own-source revenue raising capacity is limited, grants can account for more than 50% of council revenue.
The Australian Government provides financial assistance grants to local government. These are paid to state governments for distribution to local government via state grants commissions.
Councils also receive funding under a range of Australian Government programs, such as the Roads to Recovery program, Road Safety Black Spot program, Bridges Renewal Program and the Building Stronger Regions Fund.
In 2014-15 Local Government expenditure totalled $34 billion, with the major expenditure items being housing and community amenities (23.4%) and transport and communications (22.5%).
Local government assets have a replacement value of more than $438 billion (2015).