The ASU has clarified with the Minister for Local Government that "unintended consequences" arising from the use of different terminology in different states in relation to grants and funding matters will not impact the equitable access to funding by local governments.
In recent times some state governments have believed their local government authorities, including councils, have been disadvantaged by the use of the term "body politic" versus "body corporate". Some have gone so far as to suggest structures, names or laws need to be changed so that local government won't be disadvantaged.
Whilst it is understood some state governments have only raised the issue in the media or conferences, the ASU has sought clarification of the main point funding, and to make sure local government and communities do not miss out with the terms and grants associated with local government.
Some in the community might think local government gets its funding from one source, but it does not. Funding comes from many departments, sections of departments, from emergency work, roads to recovery, local government community funding, skills and training, health and more. Local government can either be the main recipient or one of many recipients. And often, due to non-local government bodies also bidding for the work, some of the guidelines vary.
"That's why it's important that local government not miss just because it's given the term 'body politic' in one state and 'body corporate' in another. Terms like this can disadvantage the community and local government," said Greg McLean ASU Assistant National Secretary.
To make sure that local government gets equitable access to funding, the ASU has written to the Federal Government Minister for Local Government Simon Crean and met with a number of Ministerial offices. We have highlighted the problems that can arise when these terms are used by various departments. Whilst each department can have a range of guidelines to ensure transparency and best use of Federal Government monies, it's also important to make sure local government does not miss out based on a technicality around terminology.
The ASU was pleased to receive Minister Crean's response to our representations on behalf of all ASU local government Branches and provide an undertaking that his department has now worked with other departments to ensure local government is not disadvantaged. Minister Crean confirmed that the terminology used around funding may have unintended consequences and therefore he has written to Cabinet to ensure other departments are aware of the issue.
"It is essential that all states and territories receive fair and equitable access to Australian Government funding," wrote Minister Crean in his letter to the ASU – and the ASU could not agree more.