Weekly Speak CEO Column
Budget Conscious and debt savvy
Collectively, local government in this state has a great story to tell about how it manages budgets and debts.
Over the past four years, Queensland councils have reduced total debt by 16% to $6.8b.
Net debt (which is debt over cash) is only $500 million.
This is amazing when you compare these figures to the other two levels of government.
The same fiscal discipline applies to local governments’ total workforce number which is currently at circa 40,000. This is down by 4500 from the 2011 peak and comparable to the 2008 state-wide council employee total. This is a prudent and restrained move and one of the main reasons why rate rises have been kept to a minimum.
For pretty much all of this term, councils have only increased general rates at, or around the CPI (Consumer Price Index).
I can safely say that rates will not be an issue at the March 2020 council elections.
These figures are all the more remarkable when you consider councils have to fund growth, basic infrastructure and services all with no growth tax, i.e. no GST or Payroll Tax which are ad valorem, whereas rates aren’t.
Over the last decade, Queensland’s population has increased by 18.5%. Our total state population reached five million people for the first time in 2018. All those folks drive on local roads, and increase demand on the water, wastewater, waste and drainage infrastructure and services councils provide. Not to forget libraries, parks and gardens, sporting facilities and the like. It’s no wonder then that the balance sheet value of council infrastructure has recently topped $150 billion.
In all, councils raise just over three percent of total taxation but are lumbered with 33% of the national total infrastructure bill. You can see why the LGAQ is so strident in its public campaigning to address vertical fiscal imbalance. Getting Financial Assistance Grants restored to one percent of total Commonwealth taxation is key to regaining this balance. There is no other way to fix this problem folks.
Canberra needs to pay its fair share and 1 William St has to do its bit too.
Queenslanders can rest easy knowing that their 77 councils are good, prudent financial managers and are conscious of their impact on rate payers hip pockets. Within the three levels of government - Queensland councils are the standout financial performers when it comes to value for money and living within their means.
Go you good things.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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