Issue 41 May 2015

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

Issue 41, May 2015

State Council Meeting

This month I had the pleasure of chairing the State Council meeting where it was great to see so many delegates in attendance. The atmosphere was very collaborative and respectful, with representatives keen to participate and help determine the MAV’s strategic direction going forward.

Fifty-six motions were adopted and these will now go to the Board for final consideration. I believe the high number of motions adopted is indicative of the many important matters currently facing the sector, whether it be challenges to overcome or opportunities and improvement to undertake.

Once approved by the Board the motions will be incorporated into the MAV’s Strategic Work Plan which was also endorsed on the day by delegates with unanimous support.

As in previous years the MAV/Institute of Chartered Accountants Annual Report Award winners were announced at the meeting, with 15 councils taking home awards.

Congratulations to the overall winners, Kingston City Council and Colac Otway Shire, as well as all the category winners.

Rates survey

By now you will have all received the 2015-16 rates survey which aims to collect rate increase data from all councils so it can be presented in a consistent format. The survey allows this data to be placed in context and ensures comparisons made around changes in rates are comparable across municipalities. This survey is a critical component of the MAV’s work to help the media and other stakeholders understand council rate increases within context.

I encourage all councils to get their survey responses in. Please provide data once draft budget figures have been released publicly.

State and Federal budget re-cap

There was some welcome news for the sector in both the State and Federal Budgets this month.

The State Budget contained significant investment in local infrastructure which is set to help improve and maintain local sporting grounds and facilities, kindergartens and libraries. Interface councils will also benefit from $50 million in shared funding to help them meet the needs of their rapidly growing municipalities.

It was also great to hear Victoria’s Roads to Recovery funding will be doubled in 2015-16 to $142.4 million - a ‘one off’ gesture by the Federal Government. Roads to Recovery funding was first obtained in 2000 after a lengthy advocacy campaign by the MAV and the ALGA. Since then continued funding has also successfully been sought with the program now funded up until 2018-19. The Federal Government’s Black Spot funding will also increase to $36.5 million next financial year - up from $16.8 million last year.

While these are great outcomes it is unfortunate however that the budgets also revealed the State’s Country Roads and Bridges program has ceased and the Federal Government’s Financial Assistance Grants indexation remains frozen at the 2013-14 rate. These two items will continue to put pressure on local councils already working within tight financial constraints to maintain local roads and infrastructure.

The MAV is awaiting clarification on what, if any, of the State’s road infrastructure funding will be directed to local councils and will continue working with the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) to advocate for the Financial Assistance Grants indexation freeze to be lifted.

Financial Assistance Grants advocacy campaign

All councils would have recently received an email asking for assistance with the next stage of the Financial Assistance Grants advocacy campaign which is seeking the restoration of the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants.

Councils have been asked to help highlight the impact the freeze is having on them by providing case studies and examples.

The information will be used to build the profile of Financial Assistance Grants with Commonwealth parliamentarians and provide concrete examples of how the freeze on indexation is constraining the ability of the sector to deliver infrastructure and services to the community.

Last month the campaign kicked off with the ALGA president writing to all councils and urging them to adopt a resolution acknowledging the importance of Financial Assistance Grants in the delivery of vital services and infrastructure.

The aim of this initiative was to ensure the positive impacts of these payments are publically acknowledged.

I would like to remind all councils to let the MAV know if such a resolution has been adopted by emailing comms@mav.asn.au.

Women in local government

Given the continuing under-representation of women as councillors and in senior local government management ranks, I am pleased to report that an equal number of women continue to make up the MAV Board, with delegates voting six women to our Board. It was great to hear that the annual conference of the Victorian Branch of ALGWA was well attended earlier this month. Held in Mitchell Shire, key note speakers included international humanitarian Moira Kelly and Zoos Victoria CEO Jenny Gray.

The MAV will be considering ways it can continue to promote greater participation of women as councillors and in leadership roles.

Some of the ways we are already doing this is by:

MAV Insurance will soon be searching for highly skilled professionals interested in being on its Board and we will again be encouraging women to apply. A new independent Director will soon be appointed to begin the recruitment phase.

Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Employment Framework

A few weeks ago we contacted all chief executive officers to let them know about the MAV’s Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Employment Framework (Word - 122KB).

Developed as a result of our analysis of case studies in the public and private sectors, and discussions with a variety of councils and Aboriginal people, this framework has been designed as a tool for local government and Aboriginal communities. It uses the Reconciliation Action Plan template developed by Reconciliation Australia, so that it can easily fit within existing council Reconciliation Action Plans or other policies.

A number of fact sheets have been prepared to support the ideas contained in the framework; Getting Started (Word - 223.4KB), Resources Guide (Word - 261.2KB), Respect (Word - 170.0KB) and Relationships (Word - 230.1KB).

I encourage all councillors to consider the material and take time to reflect on what their councils might be able to do to help facilitate the employment of more Aboriginal people in Victorian councils. By working collectively we can help reduce the gap between social and economic outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians.

CASBE launch

This month I attended the official launch of the new Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS) developed by the Council for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE).

The scorecard is an online tool that allows planning permit applications to assess the environmental sustainability of development at the planning stage. It is the result of a decade of collaboration between local government, and between state and local government to research, design and implement a framework to make sure sustainability is addressed through the statutory planning process.

City of Port Phillip and Moreland City Council were the local government pioneers for this approach with the MAV hosted Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) Advocacy Group later striving for a consist and united approach across Victoria.

Now CASBE with the support of MAV will continue raising the profile of sustainable design through BESS and help ensure it is at the forefront of statutory planning in Victoria.

Upcoming meetings

Next month I will attend the National General Assembly of Local Government. This event is an opportunity to raise the views and concerns of the sector and also help shape debate on matters of national significance. The event will be attended by the Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Greens.

I will also be attending MAV Board member regional meetings over coming weeks. These are a great opportunity to visit the regions and talk with delegates first hand. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at these meetings.

Best wishes
Bill