News and resources

Issue 39 March 2015

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

Issue 39, March 2015

MAV elections

I was honoured to be re-elected as MAV President at our recent elections, and would like to welcome our five new Board members (Cr Mark Byatt, Cr Helen Coleman, Cr Malcolm Hole, Cr Tom Melican and Cr Bernadene Voss), as well as our seven returning Board members (Cr Angela Altair, Cr David Clark, Cr Rod Fyffe, Cr Ruth Gstrein, Cr Geoff Lake, Cr Gary Norton and Cr Coral Ross).

I'd also like to acknowledge our outgoing board members (Cr Jackie Fristacky, Cr Mary Lalios, Cr Peter Lockwood, Cr Jane Rowe, and Cr Debra Swan) for their contribution to the MAV over the past two years.

Last week we held our Board induction day. Our first Board meeting is scheduled for 10 April, where we will appoint the MAV Vice Presidents, as well as Chairs for each of our advisory committees.

VAGO report

On 20 March I circulated an email to all Mayors, MAV Representatives and councillors providing an update on how we have progressed recommendations for the Auditor General's recent report Effectiveness of Support for Local Government.

The (previous) MAV Board met three times to approve the approach and content of the MAV's final response to the Audit report. This included acknowledging the importance of the recommendations. The vast majority of VAGO recommendations directed at the MAV have either been actioned or are being progressed. We have completed work to review, amend or establish internal governance policies in line with the VAGO recommendations, and ongoing compliance and monitoring of internal policies has been incorporated into our day-to-day management.

Following our strategic plan consultation sessions with members, a new format MAV Strategic work plan is proposed for 2015-16 which will also address VAGO recommendations and improve our performance measurement and reporting. In addition, we will be consulting with members shortly about a proposed review of the Municipal Association Act 1907, which has been the subject of preliminary discussions with the Minister for Local Government. A review of our legal structure will be important to inform the Government's legislative review to ensure it expressly provides for the MAV's continued independence as the peak body for local government.

I wish to assure you that learnings from the VAGO audit have been embraced by the MAV and our new Board will continue to act on, monitor and report back to you on our activities arising from the VAGO recommendations.

Finance and Rate Capping Taskforce update

Earlier this month we held our first meeting for 2015 of the Finance and Rate Capping Taskforce. In February the Board approved additional members joining the Taskforce and it was great to see participation now includes 42 councils to guide the MAV's advocacy and campaign efforts to restore Financial Assistance Grants indexation, and our response to the State's rate capping proposal.

Following announcement of the Essential Services Commission (ESC) rate capping Inquiry terms of reference, our Taskforce reinforced the need for MAV to commission development of an independent cost index for local government, and to collect comparative data from councils on the consequences of rate capping. This work will help to inform and influence our detailed response to the ESC work, and a small working group of Taskforce members is now being established to provide technical advice to the MAV on the ESC process.

Last week the ALGA Board meeting in Canberra approved a national Financial Assistance Grants sector advocacy campaign. Our Taskforce was briefed on the proposed campaign earlier this month, which aims to end the indexation freeze and maintain a direct funding relationship between the Commonwealth and local government by promoting the benefits of this funding to every Federal politician; building local support for continuation of Financial Assistance Grants among Federal backbenchers and local communities; and influencing the Green and White Papers on the Federation and Taxation reviews. The ALGA Board also agreed to develop a tax reform position paper, and a local government financial sustainability report to further bolster our national advocacy efforts.

The ALGA and MAV will be providing further details to all councils on how you can get involved in the national campaign over the coming weeks.

Kindergarten funding campaign

Earlier this month the MAV circulated a briefing paper to all members seeking councils' support for our ongoing kindergarten campaign advocacy to secure a Commonwealth funding commitment for universal access operational costs beyond December 2015. While the MAV is in ongoing discussions with the Commonwealth to achieve this funding and has been working in partnership with the Victorian Government on joint advocacy, councils can support the campaign by contacting local Federal MPs and Senators ahead of the May Federal Budget.

We provided a range of resources to assist you including key messages and template materials, and it's great to see many councils have responded positively to our request for a united sector voice.

Enough Pokies - new research reports

Last week I was pleased to help launch two new research reports as part of our continuing Enough Pokies advocacy to seek State Government reforms that better protect vulnerable communities from inappropriate placement of electronic gaming machines.

Prepared by Dr Charles Livingstone and Louise Francis from the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at Monash University, the reports provide important insight to assist councils in understanding Victoria's current EGM licensing, regulation and decision-making regime.

Dr Livingstone's research found that the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) consistently cited 16 economic or financial themes in support of EGM application decisions, and data analysed between 2008 and 2014 confirms the Commission has overwhelmingly taken the view that factors supporting applications outweigh those seen as socially detrimental to communities in the majority of cases. The research also concludes that there is a good case to be made for a freeze or falling cap on EGMs in areas of disadvantage, and a reduction of maximum bet limits to $1 would have a positive effect for 'problem' gamblers who consistently bet at levels above one dollar.

Using this evidence, we will continue to make representations to Government for simple changes to the approval system that prioritise the best interests of communities rather than the applicant.

March edition of CiVic Magazine

Our first edition of CiVic for 2015 is out and it's a great read.

We've profiled Darebin Council's foray into participatory budgeting; the Ararat Active City initiative; Brimbank Council's Light Up Sunshine township invigoration strategy; Southern Grampians Shire's study to identify local opportunities to diversify productive land use as a result of climate change; and the innovate@boroondara program to motivate Council's staff, improve efficiency and lift service levels. Hard copies were posted to all councils earlier this month, and you can read our e-magazine online or download the iPad app.

Don't forget our editor always welcomes council story ideas, so get in touch via editorial@puffafish.com.au if you have an initiative or program you'd like profiled. Deadline for the June edition of the magazine is 15 May.

On a final note, we're just weeks away from the commemoration of 100 years since the Gallipoli landings. It's great to see and hear so many councils actively involved in the planning of local community events to remember this important occasion in Australia's history.

If you'd like to raise or discuss any matters with me, please don't hesitate to get in touch on 0437 984 793 or bmcarthur@mav.asn.au. I hope to catch up with many of you at our upcoming metropolitan Mayors and CEOs forum and the rural Mayors and CEOs forum, both scheduled for April. State Council is also coming up on 15 May, and motions need to be submitted by Friday 17 April using the template form.

Best wishes
Bill