The Future of Local Government-Local Government in Crisis

Local Government in Crisis was the topic of a summit I attended recently on behalf of the City of Unley in Melbourne.


As testimony that local government (worldwide) is in crisis the leaders of the summit sited the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. To build on this a key note speaker spoke of the crisis being faced by the City of London.


Curious examples I would have thought. An outsider being elected to the post known as the leader of the free world. A sovereign country leaving the European Union. The London Council, more like a State Parliament here.

Local Government in Crisis

Truthfully Governments, we all know, are in something of a crisis worldwide as evidenced by the examples given above. Does this drill down to local governments is the question to be answered?


Councils over in New South Wales it could be argued are in crisis. Theirs’s however is not one of people being disillusioned with them. It is under the pressure of forced amalgamations being imposed by the State Government. The people there indeed are actually fighting their State Government in support of the current Local Government model.


And back here in Adelaide the LGA has conducted a survey which has indicated that local government is the most trusted level of government in this state. A far cry from what I was hearing in Melbourne.


Local Government to lead the way, not Local Government in Crisis


Backed by these last two observations what I do agree coming out of the Summit is that Local Government “can” lead the way to correcting the disillusionment in Government that the Trump, Brexit factor shows exists. So far from the catch cry being local government being in crisis it should be local government to lead the way in healing public government relations.


In other words, I agree with the manifesto that came out of the Summit. A manifesto that rests on a belief that the state of the nation and the health of our society depend on community-driven action in the neighbourhood, not just decisions made in parliaments or boardrooms.


Put another way, the crisis facing governments worldwide can only be addressed by a localist approach. And that my friends is the strength of Councils similar in size to the City of Unley.




  1. Roger de Reuter   •  

    Sounds like it was a bit of a wank-fest.
    I am surprised that Unley Council sent a delegate.
    What was the actual benefit that you brought back to Unley?

    • Don Palmer   •     Author

      Thank you, Roger.
      Can Local Government do better than it is? Of course, it can. Should we strive to improve our relationship with our community. You bet.
      So when there is a summit on covering this very topic why would we not attend.
      What I think we (both Unley and local government in general) can take from the Summit is that we are in a unique position to influence future directions.
      Why? Because we are the closest level of government to the people.
      Why? Because we (by and large) have a relationship with our community, unlike State and Federal.
      Why? Because if communities are losing faith in governments it will be local action at first that spurs change.

  2. Cathy Chua   •  

    ‘In other words, I agree with the manifesto that came out of the Summit. A manifesto that rests on a belief that the state of the nation and the health of our society depend on community-driven action in the neighbourhood, not just decisions made in parliaments or boardrooms.’

    I hope that’s true, there must be many pinning their hopes on the idea that what matters is at the grass roots. Certainly I’m one.

    But I question that issues in NSW are only about State level interference – there are high profile cases of corruption at local level – and one sees instances of development approval at council level in Adelaide and surrounds which look unlikely to be above board.

    And as the State govt in SA continues to drive for inappropriate development and apparently has the power to enforce this upon people and councils, it has to be asked what we can do about this to take control of the processes ourselves.

    • Don Palmer   •     Author

      As always Cathy you have a good grip on issues I raise in this blog site.
      Unfortunately, however good a system we might have, there will always be corruption. And those choose this path do not recognise or care that they bring an industry into disrepute. I would respectfully suggest that most corruption that is being uncovered is at the higher levels of government than local.
      Your observation concerning development approvals too can be directed straight at our State Government. My perception is that projects that historically are being refused at Local Government level are getting the green light at the Development Assessment Commission (a state body).

  3. Arthur Mangos Deputy Mayor   •  

    We are as Councils not in Crisis
    If State Government didn’t impose huge levies which are taxes we would be able to provide better services to the residents.
    Councils are not ” Cash cows”
    Every taxe has risen over inflation take the Waste levy and NRM Leviy really are Taxes.
    This State Government is cash strapped.
    Q. If we don’t have enough power for houses etc let alone the the next 10% power price increase if we need the Delsalination plant to work we have no Power.
    To your Crisis comment it lies in my opinion with the powers who legislate.

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