Issue 22 April 2013

MAV President's Update

Issue 22, April 2013

Councillor Census

More than 170 councillors have already completed the MAV’s 2013 Councillor census, which collects important demographic data after each round of council elections to monitor changes in participation of elected members over time.

Your participation is important to ensure we gain a clear and complete picture of local government representation so please take five minutes to complete the online survey anonymously. No individual councillor or council will be identified in the data collection, analysis or reporting of the findings. Alternatively if you would like to complete a paper version of the census, please contact Betsy Blunsdon from ACSPRI on 03 9018 8360 betsy.blunsdon@acspri.org.au.

A preliminary report on the Census findings will be presented at the MAV Councillor Development Weekend on from 26 – 28 July 2013.

Fellowship winner announced

Congratulations to Cr Eve Fisher from Surf Coast Shire who was last week awarded the $12,000 MAV Local Government Fellowship to research community solar initiatives. Cr Fisher will travel to the USA to look at the options for community solar power available to Victorian councils through the three main models popular in the United States, a market leader in the provision and support of community solar projects which are spreading fast nationwide. Best of luck to Cr Fisher and I look forward to her findings being shared with the sector.

Insurance renewals briefing

MAV Insurance has recently travelled to London ahead of the upcoming renewals for Liability Mutual Insurance (LMI) to negotiate reinsurance premiums for the scheme. We have seen increasing claims from Victorian councils, resulting in concerns in the reinsurance market which will lead to an increase in reinsurance costs for the scheme.

The LMI scheme is a mutual insurance scheme that commenced in 1993 following the failure of the private liability insurance market to cater for local government. It operates entirely for the benefit of its members, and services Victorian and Tasmanian councils and water corporations.

We will be holding a briefing session on Monday 6 May to discuss the outlook for the scheme for 2013-14, including possible contribution levels. Interested CEOs, directors and senior council officers are encouraged to register their attendance.

Constitutional Recognition

All indications are leaning towards the Australian Government this week announcing if it will support the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government to hold a referendum to coincide with the September federal election. We understand it was discussed by the Prime Minister with Premiers at the recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, and Minister Albanese reaffirmed the Government’s ongoing commitment to this issue when he met with state Local Government Ministers. Bipartisan support has also be sought by the Government from Tony Abbott, and the Australian Greens have confirmed their ongoing support.

The MAV is continuing to work with the ALGA and our interstate counterparts to develop the national ‘Yes’ campaign framework so we are ready to mobilise quickly if an announcement supporting the referendum is made. A letter is being sent to all councils seeking financial contributions towards a ‘Yes’ campaign and outlining a voluntary levy based on council revenue and population, which the MAV Board agreed on as the methodology at our March Board meeting.

This voluntary levy is in accordance with a State Council motion endorsed by members in 2012, and it will be up to each council to determine whether or not to contribute. Councils in all states are also being canvassed for voluntary contributions by their state associations, and the ALGA has estimated in the order of $10 million will be needed, with Victoria’s share being around $2 million.

Meetings with Ministers

Our recent meeting with Minister Powell updated her on our work to establish a ‘log of claims’ to provide input to the Victorian State-Local Government Agreement review; our concerns about the differential rates guidelines; consultation with councils to inform an MAV discussion paper on 2012 council election concerns; and our recent request to Premier Napthine to review the Government’s position on constitutional recognition for local government.

At our quarterly meeting with Minister Guy this month we expressed councils’ concerns about the transfer of enforcement responsibility for wind farms proposals determined by the Minister greater than 30 megawatts without any consultation or resourcing. The Minister agreed that an audit would be undertaken to understand the magnitude of this impact. Planning fees; and unintended policy implications of the commercial, rural and industrial zone proposals were also discussed at length. The Minister expressed his interest in hearing council views on the concept of the Metropolitan Planning Authority, and the MAV is reconvening our Metropolitan Strategy Reference Group in early May to gauge sector positions on this matter.

In other welcome news, the Council of Australian Governments agreed on a new 18 month funding deal to continue implementing 15 hours universal access for kindergartens. The Australian Government has committed $655.6 million as part of the new National Partnership Agreement, with a review of the Partnership by June 2014.

Fire Services Property Levy

Following successful negotiations by the MAV with the Department of Treasury, all Mayors should now have received a funding letter of offer to reimburse transition and administration costs for the new fire services property levy. $3.1 million is being provided to councils for 2012-13, and a further $6.9 million in 2013-14 to cover estimated customer service costs, transaction fees and postage costs. This funding excludes the central IT project being managed separately by the MAV; valuation costs managed by the Valuer General’s office; the statewide information campaign commencing in June; and customer service training underway for council staff by the State Revenue Office.

The MAV will also be providing a template so that councils can record implementation costs to inform a review by the MAV and SRO after the first year of operation. This will help to guide further funding negotiations with the Government to ensure full reimbursement of local government costs to collect this State levy. Further information on the transition program can be found in our March Members Brief.

Differential rates

As many of you would have seen, the MAV denounced the differential rating guidelines recently released by Minister Powell as an attack on the autonomy of councils to set rates that are equitable and respond to local community circumstances.

Our preliminary legal advice suggested that the draft guidelines overstep the powers conferred on the Minister through legislation given their prescriptive nature, and we are currently seeking further senior legal opinion on the final guidelines. This advice will be shared with members and we will be seeking your feedback on how the guidelines will impact your municipality.

State Council

We have received around 80 motions from members for debate at our State Council meeting on 16 May. The business papers, including all motions and our draft strategic plan will be circulated to MAV Representatives this week. You can register for State Council online.

As always, if there's any issues you would like to raise with me, feel free to contact me on 0437 984 793.

Kind regards

BILL