|South Burnett Regional Council CEO Ken McLoughlin made a formal address to the audience at the Statutory Post Election Meeting of the Council today, prior to swearing the new Councillors into office. Here is the full text of his address:|
Good Morning Councillors, General Managers and all in the Gallery.
It is my duty and pleasure to open this, the Statutory Meeting of the 2012/16 South Burnett Regional Council.
Prior to moving to the first item on the agenda which is the swearing-in ceremony, I wish to take a few moments to address Councillors-elect of the South Burnett Regional Council.
Following the elections, the South Burnett could be argued to be the most stable council in Queensland. We have six councillors returned and a change in Mayor. All other councils have experienced more change in personnel. In fact, the change in councillors across the State has exceeded 50 per cent. This leaves the South Burnett Regional Council in a good position to move forward without unnecessary delay when discharging its responsibilities during this term.
Councillors-elect, I believe that local government in Queensland is at a tipping point. A tipping point which has been caused by a number of factors.
These factors include the withdrawal in recent years of the State Government subsidies on capital works (a 40 per cent subsidy) – in South Burnett terms this means about $13 million over the next few years on top of having to pay for the expensive exercise of amalgamation.
Services have also been pushed onto Local Government from the State and this has had a major impact on our Budget. This is commonly referred to as cost-shifting.
These things are now – not will be in the future, but now – the major drivers in decision-making in this new term of Council.
For the past years local governments generally have cut expenditure to keep rates down and while admirable this has caused local government assets to deteriorate to a level where remedial action is now required.
In the South Burnett our roads, water and towns need funding injections.
Residents and ratepayers of local governments may believe that now amalgamation is four years in the past its impact is over – this is not so.
Although amalgamation is not the entire genesis of Local Government Budget difficulties, any financial benefits will not be seen for a generation. And this is on top of the cut in State Government subsidies and cost shifting of service as already mentioned.
I would also point out that the Carbon Tax will impact on our bottom line from July this year. And despite the South Burnett Regional Council being under the 50,000 tonne threshold of emissions using current criteria, we are not exempt from the increase in costs of products that have incurred the Carbon Tax.
This will increase costs particularly in respect of road materials and suchlike. These are one of our biggest expenses.
The challenge facing local government is therefore limited resources and unlimited requests.
This leaves local government in a precarious position – at the tipping point. The obvious answer is for the Federal Government to return, either via the State Government or directly to Local Government, more funds – no let me rephrase that – that the Federal Government returns to Local Government their legitimate share of funds that they have collected from taxes such as the GST, PAYG and Company Tax.
It’s a shame that the Federal Treasurer’s recent Fair-Go Budget did not extend to local government and give it a fair go.
Don’t be fooled by the Treasurer bringing forward funding from 2012/13 to this year. This was not unexpected and did not increase the amount of money used to fund Councils. I hold little hope of this occurring in the foreseeable future.
In the event that increased funds coming from the Federal government will not be forthcoming, then I turn to the State Government and trust they may revisit the subsidies once paid to Local Government and reinstate them and put in place a regional royalties system similar to that in Western Australia.
Local Government needs to keep lobbying our new State Government on this issue. However, based on known facts this is unlikely in the near future.
Therefore, Local Government will have to look for other ways to survive this tipping point for under the Act it clearly refers to financial sustainability being a requirement of a Local Government. Putting this all together it leaves little choice and room for Local Government to move.
Local Government options are therefore limited to raising rates or decreasing services or both. Both are politically unpalatable but Local Government is at a tipping point. So how will Local Government deal with these challenges and in particular what can SBRC draw on to prepare ourselves to make decisions when at the tipping point?
Well, recently we recounted and celebrated the spirit of the Anzacs. There were three notable values that were born during the Gallipoli campaign – these being courage, commitment and mateship.
The SBRC can and probably will need to draw on these values as we go forward over the next four years.
These years do not stand in isolation. They have been preceded by Council decisions over a lengthy and proud past. These values will serve you in making decisions to position our great region for decades to come.
Councillors – I strongly encourage you to undertake your duties with courage. That is, do not be blindsided by short-term goals, and do not pursue popularism at the expense of strategic-decision making. The greater good for the greater number over the greater time is a service that relies on courageous decision making.
I am also advocating the value of commitment. Commitment is not involvement but another level of engagement and accountability whereby you leave a legacy for the next generation. It is about being accountable, measured in approach and willing to listen.
And last but by no means least, I encourage all to look after our mates.
Our mates sometimes need care and consideration as we sometimes need care and consideration. This should be done in a fair and transparent manner which is defensible in the eyes of the reasonable person.
The SBRC will be obliged to make some tough decisions in the near future, especially about rates and services. You are shortly to be charged with this great responsibility.
Do it with courage, commitment and mateship. These values have served Australians well for a century and there is every reason to believe that they will continue to serve us well into the future.
A challenge to all Councillors is our Quadruple Bottom Line reference points of financial sustainability, environmental soundness, social responsibility and good governance which are management’s theoretical representation of the ANZAC.
My staff and I look forward to working with you to deliver the best possible outcomes to the communities in our great Region – the South Burnett.
Congratulations on your election to Council.