Weekly Speak CEO Column
Local Government the lifestyle level of government
There was some great news this week friends; according to the venerable Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Queensland councils cracked $1 billion on capital and recurrent spending on sport and recreation for the first time for the financial year ended 30 June 2018.
Think cricket, every code of footy, netball, swimming, tennis, athletics, show grounds, gymkhanas and horse sports, racecourses, lifesaving on our beaches and so many more suburban, town or regional facilities as well as a commitment to provide opportunities that meet diverse needs and abilities.
These are the activities that are vital to our health and wellbeing, our community connection and something that ignites us all.
When you add spending on culture and the arts that figure climbs to $1.5 billion.
All up, that equates to 18 percent of total council expenditure.
Even I was pleasantly surprised as to just how much councils are spending on lifestyle services. As I constantly say, councils have their noses to the grindstone providing the base essential infrastructure such as roads, water, sewerage and drainage.
Councils manage $150 billion in community infrastructure, a full one- third of the nation’s public infrastructure and capital assets. We do that with just over 3 percent of the nation’s public finance revenue.
It’s a miracle then that Queensland councils still invest heavily into sport and recreation, culture and the arts.
In fairness, in recent years, programs like Works for Queensland and state and federal regional development programs have helped increase councils’ capital spend in these all-important areas.
However, we are still lumped with the ongoing operational costs.
Libraries account for $260 million of the $500 million arts and culture spend. Libraries are by far and away the most popular council facilities with over two million Queenslanders being a member of a council library. They are unmistakably the greatest point of contact between the public and councils, especially the under six’s and over 60s.
That’s not to forget art galleries, civic theatres, sound shells, performance spaces, entertainment centres and picture theatres. There’s a lot of Queenslanders, young and old, whose lives are made better by their experiences in these council facilities.
Turn your mind to thousands of kilometres of council bikeway that are available for community use. It’s estimated that one in five Queenslanders will ride a bike every year. Not to forget passive gardens, parks and walking trails.
So, folks - from daylight to dusk and from the cradle to grave, Queensland councils are the lifestyle level of government.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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