Councils are sick of being caught up in pork-barrelling and funding rorts. 

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) is calling for public grants to councils and community organisations to be assessed against transparent criteria and awarded on merit.

The call comes after a string of scandals in which state and commonwealth government grants and funding programs, including the Safer Communities Fund, have been distributed along party lines. 

In the latest such incident, it appears that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was able to issue Safer Communities Fund grants to projects he personally chose, against the advice of his department. 

Safer Communities is financed by the seized proceeds of crime and assets confiscated from criminals, and should be a constructive way to help local communities prevent crime and boost safety. 

But these worthy goals are at risk from politicians’ point-scoring. 

“The underlying administrative principles of the Safer Communities Fund program – or any other or public funding program – must be merit and transparency,” ALGA President Linda Scott says.

Cr Scott says the Safer Communities Fund is an example of councils working on behalf of their communities to drive locally led solutions to local issues.

Under the scheme, local governments work with their communities to identify crime hotspots and ensure the right infrastructure – usually lighting or design upgrades – is in place to prevent crime, address anti-social behaviour, and protect at-risk communities.

In fact, councils’ own processes could be used as a model. 

Cr Scott says councils are typically required to make local government grant decisions in public meetings, based on public recommendations and merit assessments.

When variations occur, the decisions are explained in public meetings where clear, transparent justifications are provided.

“This level of public accountability should standard operating procedure for all levels of government,” Cr Scott said.