• Hannah Phillips

NSW Local Government: Voice for Community


Community is at the heart of NSW Local Government, according to Local Government NSW (LGNSW)’s outgoing President Keith Rhoades.


Clr Rhoades said strong, democratically-elected local government is the only way to ensure the community continues to have a say in the future of their neighbourhoods and day-to-day lives – while addressing the annual LGNSW Conference for the final time as President. “There’s no accountability like the ballot box – unless it’s fronting up to your constituency and community every time you do the grocery shopping, or put petrol in the car, or attend the local P&C meeting or even drop into the local for a beer. “At the end of my two terms representing the local government sector as LGNSW President, I am confident this organisation will never waver in its commitment to serving as the voice of councils and the communities they serve. “We will always fight for real and meaningful reform, to fix the rating system, to end government cost-shifting and to access a fairer share of tax revenue to support infrastructure and services.” Mr Rhoades was previously President of Local Government Association of NSW (LGA) and Joint President of the Interim LGNSW Board when the LGA and Shires Association of NSW merged to become LGNSW in March 2013. He said LGNSW’s achievements over the last 12 months included:

  • Securing grant programs worth $4.4 million, and playing a part in obtaining a further $1.7 billion funding for roads, regional growth, cultural infrastructure and local water utilities

  • The provision of 913 individual instances of industrial relations support, including 12 award claims and 193 court and tribunal listings

  • The delivery of learning and professional development programs to more than 13,000 local government participants, along with a NSW Local Government Workforce Strategy and a game-changing Local Government Capability Framework

  • The support of council staff through almost 7,000 individual interactions on policy issues and specialist networks of more than 2,000 members; the provision to almost 2,700 people of forums, workshops and conferences designed to keep participants at the vanguard of responsible and fiscally sustainable government

  • Extensive advocacy work including more than 120 representations to government through parliamentary inquiries, meetings with Ministers, MPs and other stakeholders; 44 detailed submissions on major issues such as the Local Government Act Review, the short-lived Fire and Emergency Services Levy, the Greater Sydney Commission; environmental and planning reform and other related matters.

“The local government sector has always had a seat at the table and a voice in the debate through LGNSW,” Mr Rhoades said. “Sometimes we whisper and sometimes we shout, but one thing that will always remain constant is our commitment to ensuring our councils and their communities are heard in every sphere of government.”

The importance of Local Government to NSW residents was again reinforced at the LGNSW Conference, with the release of research that found community wants local decisions made locally.

According to the research, three-quarters of residents and ratepayers believe councils are the best sphere of government to make decisions about local areas, compared to just 27% that preferred the state doing so.

The research, undertaken in May this year also found 82% were happy with their local council, with responses ranging from “somewhat satisfied” to “very satisfied”. The most common reason for satisfaction given was councils’ knowledge and understanding of the local community. LGNSW Chief Executive Donna Rygate said the overall image of councils had improved significantly over five years, with 61% of people now rating their council’s image as good to excellent , and only 16% describing council image as poor or below. Respondents nominated council competency, trust, acting in the best interest of local communities, financial management and value for money as the reasons for their response. They also had strong opinions on the most important issues facing communities and local government over the next decade. “Respondents from larger council areas nominated roads as the most important issue, followed by the effects of perceived overdevelopment and the need to ensure infrastructure growth matches population increases,” Ms Rygate said. “Residents from small and medium-sized local government areas were concerns with their local economy and support for business and employment, as well as roads.” LGNSW also reports communities were not opposed to paying more if it resulted in get better quality local services, facilities and infrastructure, with 73% of all responses ranging from “at least somewhat supportive” to “very supportive” of new potential measures. The research undertaken by Micromex Research and Consulting provided a variety of results including:

  • 75% believe local government is the best sphere of government to make decisions about their local areas, compared with 27% who believed decisions were best made by state government and 5% who believed they were best made by federal government

  • 82% expressed a degree of satisfaction with their local council (from “somewhat satisfied” to “very satisfied”). Only 6% were not at all satisfied with their council’s performance.

  • When asked what benefits local government provides to the community the most common answer (unprompted) was ‘knowledge/understanding of the local community’

  • The overall image of councils has improved significantly in the last five years, and 61% now rate their council’s image as good to excellent with only 16% poor or below. Respondents nominated council competency, trust, acting in the best interest of local communities, financial management and value for money as the reasons for their response.

  • Respondents nominated roads as the most important issue facing local government areas over the next 10 years, with those from large areas also citing the effects of overdevelopment and the need to ensure infrastructure growth matches population increase. Residents of small and medium council areas were concerned with local economies and support for business and employment as well as roads.

  • Communities are not opposed to paying more if they get better quality local services, facilities and infrastructure: 73% of all responses ranged from “at least somewhat supportive” to “very supportive”

  • Almost one-third (30%) of respondents would like to have a say in council decision-making, and 14% said they’d like to be actively involved – slightly more than the 12% who said they were already involved. Some 44% said they did not wish to be involved as long as their council was doing a good job.

  • 9% of respondents said they had considered or were likely to consider running for council, but in small council areas the figure almost tripled to 26%.

  • Just over half (52%) of people were satisfied with information they received from council, with 46% eager for more.

METHODOLOGY

  • The research comprised desk and quantitative survey research.

  • Quantitative research was conducted by telephone with a sample of 1007 NSW residents over three weeks.

  • This sample size provides a maximum error of +/- 3.1%, at 95% confidence (meaning that if the survey was repeated with a different group of the same size, 19 times out of 20 the results would be similar).

  • Results were weighted to ensure they were representative of the NSW population.

Image source - Local Government NSW