Issue 28 December 2013

MAV President's Update

Issue 28, December 2013

The year has been a busy one for local government, with many challenges to test us along the way. But together we have achieved some wins to be proud of.

Sector advocacy secured the retention of recurrent funding for public libraries, country roads and bridges and other regional infrastructure projects; $10 million in new funds to cover the costs of administering the new property fire services levy; and a further $21 million to help transition kindergartens to provide 15 hours for four-year olds.

There will be more work for local government next year to progress a fair funding deal for public libraries following the recent completion of the two-year Tomorrow’s Library review by the Ministerial Advisory Council. Dialogue also continues with the Victorian and Australian governments on Home and Community Care arrangements to ensure strengths of the Victorian system can be maintained when administration is transferred to the Commonwealth in 2015.

This year we have delivering significant time and cost savings for members through collaborative procurement. This should be celebrated. From partnering with our interstate counterparts to establish the first ever truly national local government contract for the supply of trucks, to purchasing thousands of energy efficient street lights on behalf of 45 councils and supporting the bulk changeover after several years of work by councils, the MAV and others, in particular with the Give Our Streets the Green Light campaign. Victorian councils have won over $43 million in Federal funding for street lighting projects.

Establishing a Local Government Funding Vehicle to pool council debt requirements and issuance via the public bonds market is an important step for the sector. It offers significant cost savings, a simpler borrowing process, diversification of debt sourcing, greater transparency and brings us in line with our state and federal counterparts. We hope to see all councils involved in this project in 2014.

Other innovative projects that have delivered efficiency improvements include Streatrader, the new statewide online single registration system for mobile food businesses; a central IT system change to enable councils to administer and disburse the fire services levy; and the first phase of Patchwork, a new web tool to improve early years and youth services by connecting different agencies working with vulnerable families in common. It is exciting for councils and the MAV to be leading the reform-setting agenda in this space.

In the emergency management space, we developed a number of new documents for use in relief centres that were successfully piloted and launched for this summer season; a Gender and Emergency Management factsheet and a financial management of emergencies guideline for councils. We also secured a seat for the MAV's CEO, as the only non-government agency to be represented on the newly formed State Crisis and Resilience Council.

Planning reforms have been aplenty in 2013 including extensive reforms to residential, rural, commercial and industrial zones. The release of Plan Melbourne presents both new opportunities and challenges. Its success will hinge on a whole-of-Government approach to drive infrastructure, service delivery, investment and job creation. A long-term, planned and funded transport infrastructure plan is a logical first task for the new Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA) and we welcomed the opportunity to provide input to the Minister on the role, structure and governance of the MPA.

This week we were delighted that the State Government announced $200,000 in new funding for the MAV’s Local Government Preventing Violence Against Women Project to continue working with the sector for a further two years to bring about social and cultural change in the community.

Our work in climate adaptation has come to fruition with the Port Phillip Bay Coastal Adaptation Pathways project being launched and informing further work by the Association of Bayside Municipalities; our research on councils and adaptation has informed the Victorian Climate Change Adaptation Plan, with $6 million for regional and local scale projects and mentors to support councils in embedding climate change consideration into their operations and services.

We were pleased that members also confirmed us as the preferred signatory to a revised Victoria-State Local Government Agreement (VSLGA). Discussions are ongoing with the Government and, while the agreement is yet to be finalised, it is promising to see the proposed inclusion of Cabinet impact statements to consider resource impacts, costs and benefits where new or revised roles are intended for councils.

Early in the new year the MAV will be finalising our sector priorities for the 2014 state election, with input from members. Ahead of this, our State Budget submission will call for a range of commitments including funding to deliver on Plan Melbourne, as well as renewal of funding for the Country Roads and Bridges Program, the Local Government Infrastructure Program and the Putting Locals First Program.

Until then, please enjoy our Christmas e-card. Councils embrace the spirit of the festive season all year round, which is not acknowledged often enough.

I wish everyone a happy and safe festive season and I look forward to catching up with you in the new year to progress further wins for councils and our communities.

Best wishes
BILL