Dear friends and colleagues,
As 2019 draws to a close, I’d like to thank all members for your ongoing support throughout the year. In my final update I’d like to briefly reflect on some of the year’s highlights and take a look ahead at our priorities for 2020.
What a busy twelve months it has been for our sector! I enjoyed touring the state early in the year to hear about your local priorities and challenges. I was then honoured to be elected as your President in March.
The common views expressed by councils during the MAV election shaped my priorities for this year and beyond. These include enhancing the MAV’s relationships and credibility with other levels of government, promoting the great things we do, advocating on behalf of the sector, transparency, demonstrating value for your membership fees, and working more collaboratively with other organisations.
Good progress has been made on all these matters. We undertook a dedicated stakeholder engagement program to strengthen our partnerships with councils, the State Government and other peak bodies. Our CEO, Kerry Thompson led a new member engagement process to inform our Strategic Work Plan, and members can now access more information on Board decisions through minutes published on our members-only Our Board Hub. I also shared my media speaking points to help with communications.
We also delivered tailored Member Services Reports to councils for the first time, articulating the value of your membership – and these reports will be provided annually. We appointed a new Director of Policy and Advocacy, and our Vic Councils website and Council Careers Victoria branding hub continue to showcase council achievements and opportunities for prospective employees.
While progressing organisational improvements and reforms, we continued to strongly represent the sector and provide ongoing support to our members. Together we faced a diverse range of challenges and opportunities with a united front.
Recycling issues dominated 2019, with MAV and councils involved in numerous inquiries, reviews and reform processes. In March we launched our Rescue Our Recycling Action Plan calling for leadership, funding and policy reform at both the federal and state levels to transition Australia to a circular economy and manage our resources more sustainably. In consultation with our members, we completed four recycling-related submissions and appeared before the Parliamentary Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management.
We worked alongside councils advocating for permanent Commonwealth funding for 15 hours of four-year old kindergarten. We provided input to the Nous Group review and were pleased to see the review last week recommend to the Council of Australian Government’s that the Commonwealth should commit to pre-school funding in at least five-year blocks, with funding to continue at current levels as a minimum.
We also led national efforts to secure funding and service certainty for older citizens receiving community aged care and sought retention of the Victorian Government’s state-wide responsibility for assessment services. We provided evidence to the Royal Commission into Aged Care and Quality, and we met with the State Minister and the Department. Our advocacy continues to seek as many options as possible for council roles and services while we support councils through the transition period as they determine their future focus on supporting older residents.
Negotiations have commenced on behalf of all councils to develop the next Memorandum with the State for Maternal and Child Health services, which is due to be finalised next year. We are again seeking an increase in the unit price to ensure 50/50 funding is maintained. We have also prepared our State Budget submission and will keep a close watching brief over the coming months to ensure responsibilities are not shifted onto councils. As last week’s mid-year Budget update confirmed, the Government’s surplus looks to be significantly lower than expected while forecast spending on infrastructure has increased and the Victorian Treasurer warned that tough choices will need to be made to preserve the economic prosperity of the state.
We worked closely with councils to submit a comprehensive response to the State’s review of local government rates, and we remain hopeful the Government will introduce reforms next year to make rates fairer and more equitable for all ratepayers.
Several new reforms not previously canvassed as part of the 2018 Local Government Bill were announced this year without consultation. While the community-initiated Commissions of Inquiry did not proceed in the Local Government Bill 2019, we continue to discuss our concerns with all political parties in relation to mandated single-member ward structures and the voter franchise reforms.
Our 2020 Stand For Council campaign planning is well underway, with expressions of interest sent to councils this week to host a candidate information session. We are also strengthening our focus on training and development for councillors in 2020 and beyond.
Our Procurement team had a strong year supporting councils to find cost savings and efficiencies by combining our purchasing power to secure a better deal. With a number of tenders in the final evaluation stages and other tenders concluding in 2020, our procurement team remains focused on achieving better value and outcomes for members again next year.
This year we also commenced a review of our member fees methodology. This is the first review in many years and the aim is to provide greater fairness and equity for members by ensuring councils of comparable size and capacity pay similar fees. Regional meetings to discuss our proposed new methodology will be completed in early 2020 so all councils can be advised of your fees before council budgets are finalised.
WorkCare, Victoria’s local government workers’ compensation self-insurance scheme provided high quality tailored support to maximise health, return-to-work and quality of life outcomes for members’ injured workers and their families throughout 2019. A process has commenced to grow the scheme, with new councils recently invited to express their interest in joining from November 2020 to coincide with our expected licence renewal.
MAV Insurance has undergone structural and operational improvements to action recommendations from our PricewaterhouseCoopers and Victorian Auditor General reviews. This month, four new independent Board members commenced to strengthen our investment, finance, broking and insurance compliance expertise.
Next year we will progress a decision about future options for our Liability Mutual Insurance to strengthen the sustainability of MAV Insurance. It will be a critical year for the review of the Municipal Association Act, to be followed by a review of our Rules. Members will be engaged throughout the process as it is paramount that our governance arrangements include your input as the MAV is your organisation.
This year we celebrated 140 years since the inauguration of the MAV and in 2020 we will commemorate the centenary of women being elected to local government in Victoria – Mary Rogers to Richmond Council (now the City of Yarra).
Finally, I would like thank you for your hard work and commitment to your community. The role of a councillor is challenging and demanding. But as councillors we are committed to improving our community and making decisions with honesty and integrity.
One a personal note, I will be heading overseas in the new year as part of my Churchill Fellowship. I was honoured to be one of 21 Victorian recipients awarded the Fellowship last year. In my absence, you may wish to contact deputy presidents Cr Ruth Gstrein and Cr Jami Klisaris.
Merry Christmas! I wish you a safe and joyful festive break with your loved ones and a safe and happy 2020.
With kind regards,