The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government has released a new working paper which suggest how local government bodies in Australia might independently improve revenue streams in the medium to long term.

The In our Hands: Strengthening Local Government Revenue for the 21st Century report details how recent findings on the topic can be used to create stronger local government revenue streams and better meet the emerging needs of local communities.

Prepared by lead researcher, John Comrie, the report is written with a practitioner focus to assist councils and the sector as a whole, and covers a wide range of issues concerning property tax and other sources of revenue. A series of ‘next steps’ for the sector to consider is included.

The ACELG concluded that the majority of local government bodies are unlikely to benefit from increased financial support from other government bodies, and therefore must go about shoring up their own revenue streams.

“Some councils need and deserve more financial support from other spheres of government but it’s unlikely the sector as a whole will realise significant additional financial support in the foreseeable future,” Mr Comrie said.

The report found a number of ways to secure their financial futures, including the use of legislative refinements and additional guidance. The report also suggests that councils may be able to generate additional revenue from user charges for private services they provide.  

Key questions answered in the report are:

  • What do we know about the sustainability of local government revenue to date?
  • Is the revenue base adequate and appropriate?
  •  Are rates being effectively utilised?
  •  Where the revenue base is inadequate, what are the best options for local government to increase and sustain own-source revenue to meet current and future needs?
  • How can we sustain smaller rural and remote councils through increased external support?
  •  What have we learned about how increased and sustained revenue for local government is achieved with least political fallout?

The full report can be found here, while a summery can be found here