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Weekly Speak CEO Column

State Budget - grants reform commitment the biggest win

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Being a numbers man from a long way back I’m happy to report that our member councils are in total $61 million better off after Tuesday’s State Budget and moving ever closer to our magic $600 million per annum target from the State Government. But having spent a lifetime chasing dollars for councils, with the attendant frustrations of a myriad of grants programs across what has now been five state governments, I will take the commitment to grant reform embedded within the Budget papers this year, as the biggest win for the sector.

That’s the holy grail folks, and this budget firmly keeps our search for it on track.

Auditors-General over the past few years have touched up councils, sometimes harshly in my books, for not undertaking long term financial planning. It’s like fighting with one hand tied behind your back, impossible to do when you don’t know year to year what grant funding councils will receive from 1 William Street. It’s no different to a lottery, made worse if you must find matching grants and you have no discretionary revenues.

That model is well and truly broken.

See Greg's weekly wrap video below. 

KPMG did a sensational piece of work for former director-general Frankie Carroll and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad in the second half of last year which I’m unfortunately not able to share with you. Suffice to say it is without doubt one of the best pieces of thinking and analysis I’ve seen by state government in all my years at the LGAQ. They nailed it, producing the blueprint for a future grants system - locked-in funding, thematic, flexible, allocative rather than submission-based and simpler acquittal processes. Hallelujah.

Grant reform was the number one ask for local government that President Mayor Mark Jamieson and I raised with Minister Stirling Hinchliffe the very first time we met. Ditto for my first chat last week with our new Director-General, Warwick Agnew. Mayor Mark has made it clear again and again that financial sustainability and integrity are his two big issues for this term. All I can say is it can’t happen fast enough. Bring it on.

I also want to acknowledge this week the efforts of the LGAQ’s Advocacy, Media and Communications teams, who did a great job analysing and reporting to you concisely on the 2018 State Budget outcomes. I trust you found the analysis useful and found our social campaigns and media responses useful as we try to reach a broader range of stakeholders and reduce the time taken to get our messages out. We have invested heavily in agile training for our staff this year and we are certainly seeing the dividends when our teams come together around these events.

What was particularly heartening for me in the Budget were the wins we had on a range of campaigns we have been running for a very long time. The LGAQ didn’t get all we wanted, but we achieved most of our goals for members. Some of the smallest wins were the sweetest - the continued funding for QWrap and, finally, money for the removal of waste metal from islands in the Torres Strait.

Disappointingly, council funding to support flying foxes, NRM and the reef was not forthcoming.  However, the first steps towards a zero-waste future were made with almost $100 million set aside for a range of waste management activities. The LGAQ intends to work hard to make sure that 100% of the revenues from the waste levy are returned to this vision and fortunately, in this we have the community on our side. The Colmar Brunton research showed clearly that an overwhelming 90% of community wanted to see funds generated from a waste levy locked into securing this outcome. And they will need to be. 

The technology and infrastructure solutions need to be world class and this will take some serious legacy investment from our current State Government. I honestly believe, if we make these productive investments together we are on the verge of creating a zero waste future for future generations of Queenslanders. But we need to lock in the lion’s share of the waste levy proceeds to secure that future. The battle has begun.

As we said in our news release on the 2018-19 State Budget - it was a cautious thumbs up from a local government perspective for this budget.

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006

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