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President's Update

MAV President's Update - occasional report from Cr Bill McArthur, President of the MAV

 Issue 30, March 2014

Welcome to our new Minister

Last week I spoke with Tim Bull to congratulate him on his appointment as the Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal Affairs. We will be meeting with him soon and I look forward to continuing discussions on the agenda set in motion by Jeanette Powell, including finalisation of the Victorian State-Local Government Agreement (VSLGA), conduct reforms, electoral reforms and the performance reporting framework. The new Minister has built a close working relationship with councils in his electorate, is passionate about community engagement, and keen to gain broader insight on matters of importance to councils across the state.

The VSLGA negotiations have reached a critical point for our sector and are a key priority we will be progressing them with Minister Bull. At our March meeting, the MAV Board endorsed a position paper detailing specific concerns and amendments sought by the MAV to ensure any revised VSLGA better addresses cost shifting, communication and other desirable improvements to the local-State government relationship. We hope to receive a response from the Government ahead of our State Council in May. At State Council, the draft agreement will be voted upon, with members having the option to approve it or call for further amendments.

Performance Reporting Framework

The State’s performance reporting framework for local government has been the subject of extensive consultation between Local Government Victoria and councils over more than 18 months. Proposed are 71 indicators measuring service and financial performance, plus a further 24 governance and management requirements.

Our submission on the Local Government (Planning and Reporting) Regulations 2014 Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) raised concerns about the costs to councils of implementing the framework, as well as the scale and scope of the proposed indicators.

While we support the overall objectives to improve measurement and reporting of councils’ performance, we do not believe the proposed performance measures are in all cases meaningful, and we strongly endorse concentrating on a smaller number of measures and their quality before broadening the framework progressively, over time. This will ensure data consistency, more accurate and appropriate measures of performance that link to a service’s objectives and reduced costs to councils of complying with the framework. We have also sought ongoing governance structures to include councils, the MAV and line departments to review and advise on the indicators.

Our concerns and possible solutions will be discussed with the Minister when we meet.

Our proposed priorities for the year ahead

Our draft Strategic Work Plan will be going to the Board next week. This follows eight sessions with member councils which were attended by more than 200 representatives. We have incorporated initial member input and will circulate a draft for further feedback after the Board meeting. Our Strategic Work Plan will then be considered by State Council on 16 May.

The 2014 state and federal budgets are shaping up to be the toughest in quite some years. There is a projected federal deficit of $47 billion and reviews are underway to examine budget cuts for the Australian Government. At the state level, with potentially less money coming in from the Commonwealth and continued pressure on the state’s own revenue sources, we can expect greater competition for scarce funding opportunities. One of our key goals is to preserve existing funding streams to local government and then build on these with commitments from political parties ahead of the November state election.

Among our priorities proposed for the year ahead, as informed by member input, are finalising the VSLGA; state and federal funding for transport and infrastructure; a bond issue for our debt aggregation project; establishing a self insurance scheme for workers compensation; working with the State to improve outcomes for the sector through the conduct, electoral and performance reporting reforms; and securing funding for public libraries, kindergartens, and home and community care.

It is important that councils also continue to embrace innovation and efficiency to help advance our goals in a positive and cost effective way. The MAV’s self-reform programs will continue to work towards these goals through numerous collaborative procurement initiatives, including our Championing Change program; improving performance and better managing scare resources through our STEP asset management and STEP planning improvement programs; and a new cloud network to facilitate greater operational efficiency, leverage collective skills, reduce exposure to technological risk and improve customer service.

Roll out of Patchwork will also expand to help frontline staff from different agencies to provide more linked services in a cost effective way for vulnerable clients in common. It began with five pilot councils last July, who initially loaded 100 clients and connected with 44 different organisations. To date there are now more than 100 organisations signed up including additional councils, state departments and non-government organisations. On top of this, Patchwork has over 350 clients and 250 workers. These are significant achievements and we look forward to broadening the Patchwork project to further improve efficiency across a range of service areas.

MPA Partnership Agreement

Following a request from Minister Guy last year, the MAV collated council input into the preferred powers and functions of the Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA). Work on the preferred model has progressed significantly and this week we were pleased to circulate a draft Partnership Agreement to members. The aim of this agreement is to reinforce the spirit of cooperation and the processes that will govern matters to be dealt with by the Minister, the MPA and councils.

It has been developed by the MPA and already incorporates some feedback and changes raised by the MAV. We have circulated a position paper with the draft Partnership Agreement to all CEOs, and are now seeking council feedback on our position paper prior to us undertaking further negotiations with the MPA. All feedback and inquiries can be directed to Gareth Hately, Manager, Planning, Building and Infrastructure by Friday 18 April 2014.

Mayors of Victoria – Digital Time Capsule

As many of you may know, Federation Story is a digital time capsule being compiled by Federation Square. It will incorporate personal and inspiring stories from Victorian Mayors.

Mayors of Victoria, as it will be known, is designed to build a unique place that provides a history of personal stories of mayors as community leaders who individually and collectively have made a major contribution to Victoria and the Victorian community. The project is being coordinated by Ron Smith and any mayors still wishing to participate can get in touch with him via ronsmith@medialaunch.com.au or 0417 329 20

Best wishes
Bill