Local Government Reform
As the level of government closest to the people, local government is a vital and trusted part of our democracy and our community.
Unfortunately, Local Government is becoming increasingly squeezed by a combination of shifting of responsibilities onto Councils from other levels of government and a declining level of funding and resources to deliver this. This was comprehensively documented in the 2003 Australian Government Inquiry into Local Government and Cost Shifting (‘The Hawker Report’), with the report also finding that duplication and inefficiency across all levels of government amounted to more than $20 billion per annum.
Clearly, something needs to change.
In 2013 the South Australian Local Excellence Expert Panel headed by the Hon. Greg Crafter AO, made several recommendations to reform the Local Government sector, including: a move towards regional Local Government; a closer working relationship with the State Government, particularly with a focus on regional development, infrastructure provision and service delivery; a stronger role in strategic planning and environmental and natural resources management and; new strategies to build capacity within governance and administration.
In handing down its report, the Expert Panel formed the view that not to embrace change would be most unwise.
Our intent for Local Government reform focusses on finding better, more efficient ways of delivering the services that communities need and expect, but without compromising local decision making and democracy.
SA-BEST will work with local government and sector experts to:
- Establish a Parliamentary standing committee and a Commission for Local Government;
- Review the Local Government Act and regulations;
- Enable the community to directly submit a significant local issue to the Parliamentary standing committee, where supported by a petition of 1500 or 10% of local ratepayers, whichever is the lower;
- Review the mandatory rebates Councils are required to provide;
- Strengthen provisions of the Act that support diversity of representation on Councils;
- Strengthen elected member code of conduct and behavioural standards;
- Regularly publish elected member and senior staff entitlements, gifts, benefits, Council-related travel and attended activities;
- Establish a register of state owned land and assets under the care and control of Councils;
- Implement mandatory live streaming of Council meetings, with $1 million funding to help upgrade and install appropriate technology;
- Implement sector wide benchmarking for Council services and standards;
- Review the local government subsidiary provisions to facilitate better regional collaboration;
- Investigate the merit and costs of implementing compulsory voting in Council elections, the same as for state and federal elections.
We support a thorough review of the services and functions of state agencies to identify where those resources may be better re-allocated and delivered through local government.
We won’t cap Council rates.
We believe Councils need to be empowered and resourced to respond to the needs of their local communities.
As democratically elected local members, they will be judged by their own communities at every Council election.