Local government in the spotlight at ministers' forum

Key challenges facing local governments across Australia in skills, workforce, housing and financial sustainability were discussed today at the first Local Government Ministers’ Forum of the Albanese Government.

Convened by the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and the Territories Kristy McBain, the forum provides an opportunity for ministers from all Australian jurisdictions as well as the president of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) to discuss and collaborate on issues impacting local governments.

Top of the agenda this year was the need for consistent, clear and sustainable frameworks to support local government, particularly in an environment of rolling natural emergencies.

The forum also discussed the findings of the 2022 Local Government Workforce Skills and Capability Survey, funded with $250,000 from the Australian Government and completed by 210 local governments through engagement with ALGA.

Some of the key national findings from the survey were:

  • 91 per cent of councils reported difficulty recruiting suitably qualified talent to fill advertised job vacancies in 2022, a figure that is up from the 69 per cent reported in 2018.
  • Local governments continue to experience critical shortages in several occupations including engineers, town planners, building surveyors, environmental health officers and accountants. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic, successive natural disasters, impacts of climate change, the accelerated take-up of technology and the digitisation of services.
  • Resourcing, organisational capacity, supply constraints and cultural barriers are longstanding challenges facing local governments.
  • Local governments increasingly need workforces that are equipped to manage changing environments and transitioning economies both in the regions and cities.

The forum considered the implications of the report, some solutions that are already being trialled at the local level to address these challenges, and potential opportunities to scale or expand them across jurisdictions in the coming months.

Other key discussions included the impact of significant housing shortages in communities, as well as opportunities for greater collaboration between all levels of government – particularly in the delivery of services in regional areas.

To view the full findings of the 2022 Local Government Workforce Skills and Capability Survey, visit https://alga.com.au/category/publications-and-submissions/.

Quotes attributable Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, the Hon Kristy McBain MP:

“It was my pleasure to convene the first Local Government Ministers’ Forum of the Albanese Government and I look forward to continuing to work with my forum colleagues as we address the challenges facing Australia’s local governments.

“Collaboration across all levels of government is critical to progressing the priorities raised today, particularly in light of the rolling emergencies faced by local governments across Australia.

“The Albanese Government demonstrated its commitment to the local government sector by investing an additional $250 million in the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program to support councils to deliver on their priorities, by re-establishing the Australian Council of Local Government and by including Local Government in National Cabinet.”