Councils across Queensland are keeping on keeping on amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and continue to deliver essential services like water, wastewater, drainage and waste as we end yet another week of our nation’s public health lockdown.
This is what our level of government does best: we keep the community functioning through fires, floods, cyclones, drought and now through a pandemic.
While it is business as usual – albeit amid extraordinary circumstances – we are also at a critical point where we need the State and the Commonwealth to step up and start funding our level of government properly so we can continue to support our communities whist also maintaining our workforce.
Regrettably last Friday the Prime Minister knocked back a genuine request from local governments across the country to permit access the Federal JobKeeper program.
This decision leaves a number of member councils in invidious financial situations with only three possibilities: use cash reserves where they exist; stop capital works programs or lay off workers.
Councils and the LGAQ see staff layoffs as the least desirable outcome.
To that end, the LGAQ continues to work with the principal unions to introduce flexible working arrangements that maximise the ability of councils to continue to employ all their staff.
This article published in The Conversation articulates the argument for our level of government to be included in JobKeeper. We have called for an urgent rethink on this decision while also continuing to work with the State and Commonwealth on other measures to help us keep on helping our communities.
This won’t be the last time councils approach Canberra for financial assistance in relation to the pandemic.
After all, the Commonwealth raises 83 per cent of all taxation in Australia while councils raise a measly three per cent.
The State continues to keep councils updated on the pandemic, with the Premier and her senior ministers holding their third hour-long telephone hook up with mayors this week to discuss the State’s ongoing Covid-19 response.
To her great credit the Premier has provided confidential material to the mayors, treating them as genuine partners in the disaster response.
She has committed to convening a Queensland Disaster Management Committee of Cabinet with mayors elected and re-elected at the March 28 election, as soon as the ECQ has declared all council results.
Unfortunately that declaration process is continuing to drag on with many elections undeclared as this wrap goes live.
It is extremely important that these declarations are made as quickly as possible so these new councils can be sworn in and enabled to hit the ground running.
All we can say is we feel your pain and we are only a phone call away.
Speaking of elections, on Tuesday I fired the starting gun on the LGAQ Policy Executive elections and have written to all Council CEOs in my capacity as Returning Officer.
A new LGAQ Policy Executive needs to be elected by the end of May and in place by the end of June.
Councils can nominate elected members on a district basis. You will then be asked to vote for the colleague of your choice.
Please ensure you discuss the matter at your councils statutory or first General Meeting.
Have a happy, safe and virus-free Easter.
** Also a note to councils: the LGAQ is supporting that an extension of time be granted for councils to prepare and pass their budgets. This is currently being considered by the Department. **