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Foreword

I am pleased to present to Parliament the ninth annual report on the operation of the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995.

The information in this report includes an overview of the operation and performance of local government from a national perspective. Over the years this report has become an important source of information for those working in the sector and for researchers and others wishing to better understand how local government operates in Australia.

Local government is not only a significant sector of the Australian economy but it also has an impact on our daily lives by providing essential services and responding to priorities at the community level.

In 2003-04, the Australian Government provided $1.501 billion in financial assistance grants through State governments to councils in support of the services they provided to communities. These funds are distributed in accordance with agreed national principles and this report provides an account of how the States allocate these funds between councils. Importantly, these grants to councils are untied, so councils are able to devote these funds to the priorities they have identified themselves.

According to the legislative requirements, this report records the distribution of Australian Government grants to local government, compares the methods State Grants Commissions use to allocate the grants, and provides an account of various initiatives that seek to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the services provided by local government. The report also records the progress made in improving services to Indigenous communities.

This year the report includes a chapter on local government in Germany. It provides an alternative model of local government to compare and contrast with the governance systems in Australia. There is also a timely report on the ageing of the Australian population and its impact on local government.

This report has been prepared with the cooperation of all spheres of government and I would like to thank the State and Territory Governments and the Local Government Associations for their contributions. Staff at the Australian Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany provided input to the chapter on local government in Germany and I thank them for their contribution.

I commend to you this report on the operation of the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 in 2003-04.

The Hon. Jim Lloyd MP
Minister for Local Government, Territories
and Roads