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Delivering the sizzle and the sausage

Welcome back everyone from the books, beach, fishing line, or the tractor and the Channel 9 cricket commentary team. To paraphrase the famous Sir Les Patterson: 2018 – we’re up it.

Last year was a stellar year in securing more money for Queensland councils. The LGAQ helped get you lots more, most of it locked in until the end of this term in 2020. Funding overall from both the federal and state governments is at generational highs – and we aim to keep it there for as long as possible.

It was also the commencement of President Mayor Mark Jamieson’s connectivity push, which is already paying great dividends with many rural, remote and indigenous communities having secured (or on the way to) better digital connections to the rest of the world. So, we move on to a new agenda this year.

On advocacy, we will be flat chat this year on two major fronts, both of which were included in the LGAQ’s 10 Point Election Policy Plan. The first is the reform of the current mishmash of state grants – the bane of many a CEO. This was the subject of a major review by KPMG for the Palaszczuk Government in the second half of 2017.

LGAQ President Mayor Mark Jamieson and I have already met with our new Minister, Stirling Hinchcliffe, to tell him we support grant reform, in particular the KPMG blueprint of less red tape, more flexibility and greater certainty over time. He was certainly receptive.

In some ways our task is made harder with the resignation of our grants reform champion, former director-general Frankie Carroll, but we will press on and build new relationships to help achieve that most critical goal.

Farewell and thanks to Frankie, who has been a true friend of local government as a director-general and previously head of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority. We wish him luck for the future.  Tamara O’Shea fills the director-general role for the next few months.

The second big push is to get a fair and reasonable legislative response in the first half of this year to the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Operation Belcarra report. The legislation the Government introduced late last year lapsed when the Parliament was dissolved. Our position is that councils and the LGAQ need to put right what needs fixing in the Local Government Act and move on to councils’ main focus of building better communities. Again, we have opened the batting with Minister Hinchcliffe on that front.

Now for the sausage and it’s not the usual school fete/election day sausage in a singlet offering but the big gourmet variety.

First there’s LG Sherlock, our path-breaking data analytics capability on offer to any council who wants to take it up free of charge for the next 18 months. The Sherlock teams we have assembled are ready to rip into the first part of the year so expect to hear from them soon. There will also be news regarding our work on ensuring local government gets the most out of emerging blockchain technology.

Then there’s the multi-million-dollar investment in new council websites and the Council Business Centre as we move to a new state-of-the-art platform.

The smoked barbecue sauce and onions to complement this swish snag comes in the form of what will be a two-year, $3 million local government image campaign, building on our previously successful Better Councils Better Communities TV and digital media campaigns.

This is in its research and design phase now so expect to see it hit TV screens and digital monitors mid-year, hopefully after the legislation on governance, complaints and probity and other Belcarra-related issues is passed and the dramas of last year are behind us.

Get your teeth into the 2018 LGAQ gourmet snag folks. Enjoy.

N.B: Great to see a very balanced view on perceived council corruption written by the vastly experienced Terry Sweetman in last Friday’s Courier-Mail.

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