Posted on March 29 2020
A message from our valued partner the Local Government Association of South Australia
For more than a century the LGA has provided leadership for the local government sector, and advocated on behalf of councils and the communities they represent.
Local government itself has a long and storied history in South Australia. In fact, within just four years of the colony being established, South Australia's earliest residents began advocating to make decisions, and in 1840 Adelaide City Council was established as the first municipality in Australia.
Fast forward to 2020 and today there are 68 individual councils in South Australia, with each providing a diverse range of services and facilities to their communities.
As the voice of local government, the LGA works in three keys areas: leadership and advocacy, capacity building and sustainability, and best practice and continuous improvement.
While the LGA’s focus is providing services and support to its members, its often the community that benefits, either directly or indirectly.
One practical example was the LGA’s successful recovery of $13 million from SA Power Networks for SA councils and the State Government in late 2019.
This was the outcome of a lengthy legal process initiated by the LGA, and was primarily based on SAPN “over-recovering” depreciation costs on its public lighting infrastructure.
Advocacy from the LGA (as well as the Australian Local Government Association) also secured the return of supplementary Commonwealth road funding for SA councils in the 2017/18 Federal Budget. This funding is worth $20 million per year, and provided to recognise the otherwise unfair share of local roads funding received by South Australia.
Another focus for the LGA is bringing councils together to pursue worthwhile projects.
One example of this is a circular procurement pilot project, which is being led by the LGA and involves nine councils.
These councils have committed to prioritising the purchase of recycled-content products through the procurement process, and tracking and reporting on recycled-content purchased by weight.
Most have also adopted a rolling target for the purchase of recycled plastic products, working towards eventually buying back recycled materials equivalent to half the weight of plastics collected in their council area.
The goal is to increase local demand for recycled materials, support the development of a circular economy in SA, and ultimately reduce waste and recycling costs for the sector.
Procurement is another area where the LGA brings councils together to deliver savings for ratepayers.
On 1 January 2020, new electricity supply contracts negotiated by LGA Procurement came into effect, which will save South Australian ratepayers approximately $14 million over a three-year period.
These contracts are a huge win for councils and their communities, and a direct result of LGA Procurement achieving an economy of scale to get better purchase prices.
A key priority for the LGA and its members in 2020 will be local government reform.
The sector is supportive of evidence-based changes that will further improve the efficiency and transparency of the sector, and drive downward pressure on council rates.
One opportunity to do this is through the development of a sophisticated online sector-wide performance measurement and reporting system.
The LGA has been advocating for such a system since 2017, and this approach now also has support from the SA Productivity Commission and the State Government.
Such a system would provide all residents with a central source of consistent and relevant information about their local council, and also provide councils with a consistent tool to inform decision making and drive business improvement.
Recent years have seen average South Australian council rate increases trending down, in spite of a range of external cost pressures on councils.
The State Government’s Solid Waste Levy – or “Bin Tax” – is one example, and will cost councils $42.5 million after increasing 40% this financial year.
The LGA will continue to push back on cost shifting from other tiers of government that are putting upward pressure on council budgets and rate increases.
The LGA is immensely proud of its 125-year history, and looks forward to continuing to serve its member councils and the people of South Australia.