Local councils make federal budget pitch

Marion Rae
·2-min read

Local governments want to reclaim a seat at national leaders' meetings, arguing that rolling out vaccines and job creation are among key tasks that need their local know-how.

"As the managers of places, local governments know what works and what doesn't in every place," Australian Local Government Association President Linda Scott told AAP.

"What works in Gladstone is going to be very different from Karratha or Adelaide or my own council, the city of Sydney."

That includes knowing the best places to put child-care, pools and libraries.

Releasing a pre-budget pitch to Treasury, the plan aims to create over 31,000 jobs and add $4.65 billion to the economy.

The "most critical" part of the wishlist would restore financial assistance grants, used as general purpose funding by local governments, to one per cent of tax revenue - almost double current levels.

During the pandemic, Cr Scott said these "untied grants" allowed councils to give cash to businesses, provide meals on wheels and homelessness services, reaching people that state and federal governments can't reach because of their size.

"We had librarians calling through our library membership list just to check on people to see how they're doing and is there anything they need," she said.

"We have a homelessness expert who knows everyone who sleeps rough on the street and was able to work with the state government services to house people so that there wasn't a COVID risk on the streets of Sydney."

Councils also want to reclaim a seat at the top table after being ousted last year from national leaders' meetings, formerly known as the Council of Australian Governments.

"It's so important that the proposals that the Commonwealth and state governments are planning can be implemented," Cr Scott said, citing hundreds of buildings available as vaccination hubs or local options to replace hotel isolation in cities.

"In recent months, we've seen state government proposals for regional COVID accommodation. Local government would have been a strong voice for the regions in that national cabinet debate."