The State Government has this week released a discussion paper on a new framework to better assess the financial sustainability of Queensland councils.
This work is something we have been calling for on behalf of members and follows a recommendation by the Queensland Audit Office (QAO), including in its most recent report on local government finances.
That same report found one third of councils are at high risk of becoming financially unsustainable.
This discussion paper marks the start of formal consultation on the move away from the current ratios being used to measure your council’s financial position.
The paper recognises the need to more accurately reflect the diversity of Queensland councils, which the LGAQ regularly discusses with the local government department.
We’ve also been asking for the State to respond to the QAO’s most recent recommendations when it comes to the financial sustainability of councils.
And if there are changes to the financial ratios – which this paper proposes – then we want them to be consistent across the QAO, the QTC and the department.
Please take a look via the link here and feedback is due to the department by 12 November.
Rural and Remote Councils Compact
Meanwhile, this week I’d like to highlight the work being done by our hardworking Rural and Remote Councils Compact Guardians to ensure the compact makes a difference for the councils it represents.
The Guardians recently chose roads as the first strategic priority issue to address through the Compact.
The Guardians contacted Queensland’s 45 rural and remote councils, asking them to identify any existing policy and/or legislative issues about roads, where they felt the unique needs of rural and remote communities had not been adequately assessed.
That list of issues was taken to the Rural and Remote Councils Policy and Legislative Committee last month. The committee has relevant government departments represented on it, and discussed with the Guardians opportunities to enhance local outcomes, particularly with:
- Road Maintenance Performance Contracts
- DTMR procurement
- First and last mile
- Roads off alignment
- Roads in rural areas.
The objective of the compact is to ensure rural and regional impacts are considered effectively by Government at early stages of policy development.
As a result, some follow ups from the committee’s first meeting will involve a working group, addressing issues raised in relation to forward procurement works, and inputs into a freight strategy pilot program and a revised Road Safety Strategy.
Housing study launched
And finally but also importantly, on Wednesday the Western Queensland Alliance of Councils launched its region-wide housing market study, undertaken by the Regional Australia Institute.
This comprehensive body of work lays bare the housing crisis these 22 councils and their communities are facing right now.
The report makes key recommendations to address the crisis including:
- That the WQAC to establish an unlisted residential property fund – an investment vehicle to attract large-scale equity investment into housing in the region. The initial investment would be into new and substantially upgraded council housing. Subsequent investment could be into housing in the region’s private rental markets.
- That the State Government to renew government employee housing through divesting itself of its existing stock and re-investing in a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer development of new dwellings spread across the WQAC region.
- That the Federal Government to introduce a Regional New Home Guarantee applicable to households looking to build or substantially renovate a home in locations where sales prices are significantly lower than average build costs.
This is a great body of work and we will draw on it to help inform the statewide Local Government Housing Action Plan we are currently working on, on behalf of member councils, following its endorsement by the Policy Executive in August.
The LGAQ’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Housing Affordability and Supply in Australia, and the outcomes of the upcoming housing motions up for debate at the LGAQ Annual Conference in late October - combined with comprehensive pieces of work like undertaken by the Western Alliance - will provide a strong foundation for preparation of the Action Plan.
It will be developed by the LGAQ, in partnership and consultation with Queensland councils.
Further details, including opportunities to provide input to the preparation of this Action Plan, will be provided to councils in due course.