ESSENTIAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
Local government represents the community. As the closest level of government to the community, it is in a unique position to identify community needs and make sure that those needs are met in the most appropriate way. This means that services provided by local councils vary from state to state and council to council. A remote council in the Northern Territory, will have very different needs and characteristics from those of a council in inner Melbourne.
No two councils are exactly the same and this difference is what makes local government so valuable and so important to the people who live there.
To give some context to local government’s infrastructure role, local government owns and manages over 80 per cent of the nation’s road network by length – almost every trip begins and ends on a local government road. It also owns and manages around $212 billion worth of physical assets. Whereas local government’s traditional focus has been on essential infrastructure and municipal services, the past 50 years has seen a huge rise in the size, scope and role of local government. In addition to providing infrastructure, local government has become increasingly involved in delivering people services. It now delivers more than 150 services.
Local government services crossall areas and include:
Local government is the only supplier of many of these public services, and it is important to remember that if local government can no longer provide these services, no one else will step in. If local government is not adequately funded, the provision, safety and standard of essential services will suffer. Councils will have reduced capacity to respond to emergencies and provide support after disasters, such as fires or floods.
Over 560 local councils in Australia provide vital public services every day of the year. After 170 years, it is time to include local government in the Constitution as the third level of government. Constitutional recognition will protect what we already take for granted and give local government the funding security to better deliver the services that the community needs and deserves.