For the past several decades, Australian local government has faced relentless financial pressures. In attempting to maintain service levels, most local authorities have invested too little in local infrastructure maintenance and renewal. The main symptom of this malaise has been a burgeoning infrastructure backlog, which now far exceeds the fiscal capacity of a majority of councils. Various remedial policy measures have been espoused to relieve this financial distress, most notably structural reform programs based on forced mergers. However, compulsory consolidation has failed to achieve its intended aims, and financial unsustainability has become more acute. Obviously other avenues must now be pursued if Australian local government is to remain viable.
Funding the Future represents a pioneering attempt to comprehensively explore and assess financial sustainability in Australian local government. It focuses on Australian fiscal federalism and the place of local government in this structure, it provides a critical assessment of methodologies and findings of the various national and state public inquiries into financial sustainability in local government, it offers an exploration of ‘holistic sustainability’ as distinct from the narrower ‘financial sustainability’ in local government, and it presents a detailed assessment of different approaches to local infrastructure funding, including an Australian municipal bond market, a Commonwealth local infrastructure fund, municipal banking and an Australian municipal bond bank. While the emphasis falls squarely on Australian local government, Funding the Future draws on extensively on both the international conceptual and empirical literature.
Brian Dollery in the News – 30 April 2013, SMH. Read full article…