In his presentation Andrew considered how local governments in Australia are expanding the services they offer in response to community needs and expectations, to support economic growth, social cohesion and community building,
However, the sector is also operating under significant pressures including amalgamations and an infrastructure backlog (estimated at $20 billion). These are exacerbated by state mandated rate-caps – impacting approximately half of councils’ own revenues – and grant freezes.
The other major concern facing Australian local governments is its workforce, including the stark realities:
- It is difficult to attract and retain skilled staff
- 40% of staff suffer functional literacy issues
- 40% of staff are without post-secondary qualifications
In addressing these issues, local government is actively looking to boost cooperative governance on the local and regional scale, including collaborations with all levels of government, business and communities to advance economic, social and environment well-being. Andrew noted that following the re-election of the Turnbull Government there has been renewed interest and engagement in local government at the federal level.
Other countries' presenters discussed several themes in common, such as:
- Unfunded mandates from national governments
- Workforce challenges
- European cities: dealing with refugees/immigration