Sydney City Councillor Linda Scott has been elected President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) – the national voice of local government representing over 500 councils nationwide.
Councillor Scott was elected to the position unopposed at ALGA’s annual general meeting on Friday – and will succeed David O’Loughlin, whose second (and maximum) two-term stint as ALGA President ended this week.
During her time on the City of Sydney Council, Cr Scott has successfully advocated for more affordable housing and green spaces, increased early education and care centres, new skate parks, and boosted city funding for climate change action.
Cr Scott is also the current President of Local Government NSW (LGNSW), where she has been a tireless campaigner for NSW councils, particularly on the issues of adequate and sustainable funding.
In this role, she successfully secured the doubling of library funding for all NSW local government libraries, led a state-wide campaign to save recycling, and successfully advocated for fairer and more transparent electoral funding laws.
She said she will adopt a similar approach while ALGA President.
“I am honoured to have been elevated to this national role,” she said, “and I’m committed to looking after the best interests of local government and the people they serve.
“Councils are the level of government closest to the community – and contrary to what many people might think, our responsibilities encompass much more than ‘roads, rates, and rubbish’.
“Local governments directly employ nearly 200,000 people, control assets worth more than $425 billion, and have an annual operational spend of more than $38 billion,” she said.
“Councils run pools, art galleries, childcare and emergency management centres – they deliver meals on wheels, nurture small business, and tackle homelessness and violence against women among many other things.
“They do all this with a revenue base that is significantly smaller than other levels of governments.
“I see promoting local government’s contribution to the success and prosperity of our communities – and campaigning for it to be adequately funded in that endeavour – as one of my main tasks in this new role.”
Cr Scott also said she would continue to campaign for a reversal of ALGA’s exclusion from National Cabinet during her two-year term.
“ALGA was a foundation member of COAG until it was abolished and replaced by the National Cabinet in May. What that effectively means is that decisions about people are being made without community input.
“It’s fundamentally undemocratic, and I will fight for ALGA to regain a seat at the table of first ministers.”
Cr Scott said correcting the historic under-resourcing of local government was more important than ever given the sector’s key role in helping alleviate the local impacts of the Black Summer bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic – and in assisting in broader economic recovery.
The sector is seen as a valuable and trusted partner in helping roll out Commonwealth and state programs like Roads to Recovery, Bridges Renewal, Road Safety Blackspots and bushfire relief.
This year’s Federal Budget was a further a vote of confidence in the capacity of local government, with a $1 billion extension to the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program and the opportunity for local governments to play a role in the implementation of projects under the extra $2 billion earmarked for road safety.
Cr Scott said that councils stood ready to deliver further initiatives.
“Our on-the-ground connections and expertise mean councils can, and will, play a vital role in coming months and years to bolster local economies, make communities more resilient, and build a better, more prosperous Australia.”
Cr Scott paid tribute to her predecessor, Mayor O’Loughlin, saying he has been a highly effective champion for councils and for the interests of local communities.
“He has been an outstanding ALGA President and local government advocate these past four years, and I am honoured to continue his work,” Cr Scott said.
The AGM also saw Tracey Roberts (Mayor of the City of Wanneroo in WA) and Matt Burnett (Mayor of the Gladstone Regional Council in Qld) elected as Vice Presidents.