Local government plays a crucial role in providing services to the community and is more relevant than ever. Councils provide the infrastructure and services that make our communities great places to live in. Despite additional responsibilities costing billions of dollars being forced onto local government, funding levels to local government have dropped in real terms.

Two government inquiries are looking into the provisions of funding to local government and the ability of councils to fund infrastructure and services.

Fighting for fairer funding for local government at NSW Parliament:

Recently USU General Secretary Graeme Kelly OAM along with Managers Stephen Hughes and Daniel Papps attended the first hearings of the parliamentary inquiry into the ability of councils to fund infrastructure and services.

This inquiry was established on 14 March 2024 to inquire into and report on the ability of local governments to fund infrastructure and services.

The USU is determined that the voices of the thousands of local council workers is heard and urges key stakeholders to work together to fix funding for NSW Councils so that communities get the local services and local jobs they desperately need.

Federal inquiry into local government sustainability

The USU also welcomes the new House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into local government sustainability. We expect this national inquiry will consider and address the financial challenges and funding shortfalls being faced by local governments.

The USU is disappointed that the May federal budget did not provide an increase in Financial Assistance Grants beyond the legislated formula for indexation – while we welcome the $155 million increase in Financial Assistance Grants this year, it results directly from the legislated indexation formula. The federal inquiry gives councils and other interested parties the opportunity to set out why an increase to these grants is vital for  local councils and local communities.

There are several key considerations that this inquiry needs to focus on to ensure local government is sustainable.

  1. Examine the importance and effectiveness of untied federal funding to councils through federal Financial Assistance Grants.
  2. Increase the Financial Assistance Grants. Despite increased demands on local councils, over the past 30 years, we have seen Financial Assistance Grants to councils slip from one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue to just half a percent. This is NOT good enough.