President’s Column – 20 March 2020

Image shows President David O'Loughlin smiling in front of a black background

Droughts, bushfires and now a global virus – the need for strong and stable Local Government has never been greater for our communities.

The Prime Minister’s recent announcements dramatically underline that Governments at all levels must step up to keep the nation healthy, our businesses solvent and people in jobs. Councils are the most connected level of government, we know those most at risk and the local services they rely upon, we know the businesses that are suffering, and we are home to the people whose jobs are on the line. Our role will be central to ensuring the wellbeing of our communities both during and after the crisis.

We are tailoring services, we are advising our community groups, we are moving to online services, we are relaxing curfews to allow 24/7 access to supermarket loading docks for restocking essentials, and we are preparing to do much more.

On your behalf I have offered the Local Government sector as the perfect partner to stimulate the economy and keep people in jobs across the nation. Every council across the nation has shovel ready projects and a list of road and building maintenance that could be accelerated immediately, but we are already stretched and can’t do this without help.

I’ve made the call directly to the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister, and more publicly this week (https://alga.asn.au/councils-offer-conduit-for-fast-targeted-stimulus-with-long-term-benefits/) that the Commonwealth should immediately restore historic levels of funding to our Financial Assistance Grants, and significantly boost funding through programs such as Roads to Recovery, Bridges Renewal, Road Safety Blackspots, Drought and Bushfire Relief programs. These programs all provide well used mechanisms for distributing additional funding, generating and protecting local jobs and stimulating local, state and national economies.

Already established, fast to activate, and proven to deliver great results, these programs have successfully delivered over 60,000 projects in partnership with the Commonwealth to date – and stand ready to deliver many more if funding is provided.

Working together, Local Government can play a critical role in keeping local economies alive and making our communities more resilient to ensure the nation’s recovery is built on a firmer footing.

Our Council facilities will also play a vital role in coming months. So important for community activity, information supply, recreation and celebrations, they are under considerable pressure following the announcement of indoor event restrictions and social distancing requirements. I feel for the many Councils who will struggle to keep them open and encourage them to engage in other ways to provide the invaluable service our communities rely upon and will seek in coming months.

Lastly, with the further restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on indoor gatherings, the 2020 National General Assembly scheduled to be held in June has been cancelled. ALGA understands how much the sector values the opportunity to come together to support each other as well as explore ideas to tackle issues faced by Councils. To facilitate this the Australian Local Government Association will look to broaden the agenda of the 2020 Local Roads and Transport Congress being held 16-18 November in Hobart. Stay tuned for more details on what this event will cover and put a place holder in your diary for the dates.

My thoughts are with all communities in this time of crisis. I am sure that the Local Government sector will be invaluable in helping our communities cope during the crisis and to bounce back better afterwards.

Mayor David O’Loughlin
ALGA President