Column by Mark Crawley
Local governments in Queensland manage assets worth more than $115 billion collectively across this great State and managing those assets requires good planning and good management.
Community expectation is growing in relation to provision of new shiny items for their communities to increase livability and all of this comes at a cost, and in an environment where ratepayers believe they are already paying enough to councils in their rates.
So where do councils obtain additional funds to renew and replace their ageing assets and at the same time balance the introduction of new assets?
Usually from grants. These are most times through competitive rounds where local governments are competing against one another for a share of the available limited funds.
Well it’s that time of the year again when the State Government opens its funding programs to local government for eligible projects. How can councils best prepare for these funding rounds?
The current programs from the State Government appear to be categorising funding into strategy development, business case development and then programs that provide funding for the actual Infrastructure.
The State has released and called for applications from councils for strategy and business case development through the Managing the Infrastructure Pipeline Program 2 (MIPP2), and infrastructure funding through Building our Regions (BoR4).
In a media release on Friday, February 9, 2018 on the topic “Grant reform needed for financial security” the LGAQ’s vision for grant reform is to create genuine partnerships between state and local governments, based on the following recommendations:
• Consolidation of grant programs into a small number of program streams aligned to outcomes, with governance and oversight of each program stream comprising relevant State Government departments and the LGAQ.
• Grant program arrangements that provide funding certainty to councils, thereby supporting long-term planning, improved asset management and financial sustainability.”
If all Queensland councils were in a position where they have a listing of all the projects on their “wish list” (prioritised), good asset management plans with 10-year capital works schedules, strategies and business cases prepared for additional projects for community; we would be in a good position to put a case forward for funding allocations for each council based on their planning over the longer term, providing financial certainty (sustainability) for renewal and management of these assets and projects for a better future for all Queenslanders.
Queensland Treasury has developed a program, the ‘Project Decision Framework’, that assists councils from concept through prefeasibility, feasibility (business case development) to project planning.
Funding from the State Government is recommending that council projects seeking funding should be tested through the Project Decision Framework.
It is extra work for local government but preparation is key and if councils can demonstrate they are well prepared then it should be only a matter of time before the funding partners will see the benefit and amend programs that support financial sustainability of Queensland council and deliver the additional benefits to all Queenslanders.
Good luck to all the Councils submitting applications for funding for the projects that will support the communities you serve.
* Former local government chief executive officer Mark Crawley is the managing director of Mark Crawley Consulting in Townsville