Saturday, May 25, 2024

ALGA President to take LG skills crisis to Jobs Summit

ALGA President, Linda Scott, will represent Australia’s 537 councils – and the 190,000 Australians they employ – at the Government’s two-day Jobs and Skills Summit at Parliament House that kicks off tomorrow.

The invitation-only Summit, to be led by Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese and Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is set to bring together government, unions, employers and civil society to address shared economic challenges.

Cr Scott says around 9-in-10 local governments are experiencing skill shortages – an increase of 30% from just four years ago – and two thirds have had local projects impacted or delayed as a result.

“Australia’s 537 councils are facing a jobs and skills crisis which is only getting worse,” the City of Sydney Councillor said.

“There are a range of factors that are making it increasingly harder for councils to recruit, train and retain suitably skilled workers.

“Housing affordability and availability is an ongoing issue, particularly for regional and rural councils looking to attract specialist staff from outside their local community.”

She said staff retention is also a major challenge facing councils, given the competition for skills within the private sector and also from other levels of government.

“Nationally the turnover rate in local government is about 15%, and it’s closer to 20% in rural areas.”

“Some of the hardest jobs to fill right now include engineers, urban and town planners, building surveyors, environmental health inspectors, and HR professionals.

“However, the biggest hurdle to attracting and retaining qualified staff is the lack and uncertainty of long-term funding to support workforce planning and development.

“Councils collect less than 4% of national taxation and are heavily reliant on federal Financial Assistance Grants.

“For many councils – predominantly outside of our major cities and towns – these grants make up more than 20% of their annual operating revenue,” said Cr Scott.

She said Restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least 1% of Commonwealth taxation revenue – where they were at 30 years ago – would support councils to undertake workforce planning and development strategies.

“Investing in local government jobs makes sense, and will help expand employment opportunities for all Australians, including the most disadvantaged,” the ALGA President said.

“ALGA will continue to advocate for Financial Assistance Grants to be restored to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue, which will help councils invest in vital workforce planning and development.

“Sustainably resourced, councils also play an important role supporting employment and improving productivity in our communities by procuring local goods, running economic development programs, and providing the infrastructure and services that allow local businesses to thrive,” she said.

Cr Scott said it was encouraging to see Nationals Leader David Littleproud throw his support behind Constitutional recognition of local government last week.

Mr Littleproud has called for a referendum on local government, slamming the current model between states and territories as “lazy and unproductive”.

He has written to Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese seeking support for constitutional recognition of local government, to “reduce inefficiencies” and “improve service delivery for Australian communities”.

“As a level of government that represents all Australians, and makes a meaningful contribution to our federation, local government absolutely should be recognised in our Constitution,” said Cr Scott.

“ALGA supports the Government’s approach of prioritising a referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament, and we look forward to working with the Government and Parliament to progress this issue at a later date.”

The outcomes of the Summit will inform the Employment White Paper, which will help to shape the future of Australia’s labour market, Treasury said in a statement this week.

Submissions to the White Paper will open later in the year.

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