5 July 2023
After 10 years, we've had a refresh
You may notice we’ve had a bit of a facelift here at the Weekly and on our website!
After 10 years we thought it was time to freshen up our look, ensuring our digital communications are compliant with best practice and as accessible as possible while avoiding any expensive rebranding process.
Rest assured that other than minor tweaks to our corporate colours and fonts, there’ll be no change: LGNSW’s second decade continues with the same brand, same services, and same commitment to members as always!
NAIDOC week (2 July to 9 July)
Congratulations to the many councils right across NSW partnering with First Nations communities to mark NAIDOC week this week, celebrating and recognising the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The 2023 NAIDOC week theme is For Our Elders, highlighting the important role of Elders as cultural knowledge holders and leaders for their communities.
I was very pleased to meet with Cr Pat Dixon Memorial Scholarship Trustees earlier this week to consider applications for 2023 scholarships for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander councillors and council staff, and I look forward to having more to say on this year’s recipients soon.
LGNSW online forum this Thursday – Voice to Parliament
Thank you all who have registered for the LGNSW online forum this Thursday on the Voice to Parliament.
Please join me in hearing from speakers such as the Hon Linda Burney MP (Minister for Indigenous Australians), Professor Megan Davis (Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW and Professor of Law, UNSW), Cr Esma Livermore (Deputy Mayor, Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council) and Cr Darcy Byrne (Mayor, Inner West Council)
The forum will provide you with an opportunity to hear about the upcoming referendum on the Voice to Parliament and ask any questions you may have.
Water Management Conference
Thank you, too, to all delegates who attended the LGNSW Water Management Conference in Parkes last week, discussing the latest technical innovations and best practice in water governance and management.
Among all other terrific speakers, it was great to have the Minister for Water, Rose Jackson MLC, and the Shadow Minister for Water, Steph Cooke MP, address delegates and express their commitment to councils’ Local Water Utilities.
The shared commitment to close consultation with the local government sector is particularly welcome, particularly in light of the NSW Government’s foreshadowed parliamentary inquiry into how best to safeguard and support local water utilities.
RFS mobile assets (‘red fleet’) update
I was extremely disappointed to learn of the letters the Office of Local Government (OLG) has been sending to councils last week, regarding qualified audits these councils have received as a result of red fleet matter.
Many councils have taken the principled and professional decision not to recognise red fleet assets in their financial statements as councils have no control over the acquisition, deployment or disposal of these assets, and LGNSW supports these councils in this decision.
While the Auditor-General’s qualified audits of these councils is disappointing, it is especially disappointing that contrary to its previous position the OLG is now asking councils across NSW to divert already strained council resources to provide OLG with information on strategies to respond to the nonsensical position that RFS mobile assets are not assets of the RFS.
This diversion of resources will distract councils from their core work for the community and will not provide a single ounce of public benefit.
LGNSW has written to the OLG strongly urging the OLG to reconsider its position on this matter, and highlighting the independent advice the OLG sought that directly contradicts the position the Auditor-General and OLG are now taking. Read the LGNSW letter here.
Audit costs for local government
I wrote last week to the Auditor-General raising concern at the significantly increased audit fees being imposed on councils this year.
Since the NSW Audit Office became the auditor for all NSW councils in 2018, the baseline costs of audits have continued to increase.
In the context of significant cost pressures on councils this year, a number of councils have raised with me the unsustainable audit fee increases they are receiving that are well in excess of CPI and far beyond the baseline local government rate peg of 3.7% for 2023-24.I have seen examples of fees increased by more than 100% year-on-year.
At the 2022 LGNSW Annual Conference, councils resolved to support a motion from Bega Valley Shire Council calling on the NSW Government to cover the full costs of audits for local governments in our State. I have also written to the NSW Government to highlight this resolution and will keep you updated once a response is received.
Federal funding – good news for local government
I was very pleased to see two items of good news for councils confirmed in the past week, supported by advocacy from LGNSW, councils across NSW and the Australian Local Government Association.
The Federal Government has announced the advance payment of the preliminary 2023-24 Financial Assistance Grants will represent about 100% of the amount council is entitled to. These funds should be in council accounts now, which is good news especially for councils that have anticipated and developed their budgets based on previous arrangements that have included this prepayment.
I was also very pleased to see the Federal Government announce it would fast track $888 million in Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) in NSW, which will support councils to speed up their recovery and restoration efforts after a very challenging period of compounding disasters in recent years.
Under the DRFA, payments are generally made after a State has submitted an audited claim for financial assistance and following reconstruction works. This advance payment will mean more up front support for councils and the communities they support as they recover from disasters.
We look forward to the NSW Government acting to remove any obstacles to these funds getting to where they are needed.
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