Issue 45 September 2015
Issue 45, September 2015
Since my last update we’ve seen big changes at the federal level with a new Prime Minister, Cabinet reshuffle and reinstatement of a portfolio for local government under the new Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects, Paul Fletcher. This offers renewed opportunities to advocate for the return of indexation to financial assistance grants and other priority sector issues at the national level. It’s also pleasing to see Jamie Briggs appointed as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment. His new position signifies a welcome shift in focus, with the Prime Minister indicating cities have historically been overlooked from the federal perspective.
We held the ALGA Board meeting in Adelaide this month to celebrate the 175th anniversary of local government in Australia, given the first council was established in Adelaide. The Board discussed issues for inclusion in ALGA’s advocacy in the lead up to the next federal election. The MAV sought inclusion of gender equity and preventing family violence, to sit alongside other national local government priorities such as Financial Assistance Grants, community infrastructure and road funding. The new Prime Minister has clearly identified family violence as a priority area for the Commonwealth, and local government is well placed to be part of the solution because councils connect with the community across the continuum of prevention, early intervention and response.
HACC bilateral agreement signed
After extensive negotiations, a bilateral agreement on transition responsibilities for aged care and disability services was signed by the Victorian and Commonwealth governments earlier this month. The agreement commits both governments to ensuring the HACC service system for older people is stable for a minimum three year period. This includes guaranteed funding and no re-tendering of services from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2019, as sought by the MAV on behalf of councils.
We have worked hard over several years to achieve this outcome, and are pleased that components of Victoria’s high quality scheme delivered by local government will be retained within or alongside the national programme. Local government’s role will be recognised through a schedule to the agreement in a ‘Statement of Intent’. Following MAV consultation with members over more than a year, it is intended that the Statement will be signed by the MAV and the relevant Minister. We will continue to negotiate on councils’ behalf and the Commonwealth has agreed to our request for a senior level Joint Officials Committee with the State and MAV to support ongoing input from local government.
Rate capping update
Our resources continue to focus on this priority issue to secure a rate capping model that delivers fair and workable outcomes for both councils and communities. This week the ESC will deliver its recommended rate capping and variations framework to the Government. We’ll be seeking public release of the report as soon as possible and calling for further consultation with local government on the proposed approach.
Our submission was filed with the ESC following extensive input through our Rate Capping Taskforce, which includes representation from 42 member councils. We continue to seek changes that will improve the proposed rate capping base, methodology and process, as well as the separation of roles so the ESC is not both arbiter of rating variations and the monitor of the framework’s effects.
We also sought ACIL Allen to provide independent economic advice of the ESC's proposed framework. Their advice to us suggests that the framework will lead to reductions in employment in the sector and greater outsourcing of services as councils respond to the insufficient increase in labour force costs allowable by the ESC. They have also advised of the different effects the cap and variation framework will have on individual councils – the model will advantage those councils with higher rates or with greater growth rates, while disadvantage those with higher infrastructure costs, lower population growth and higher proportion of costs in the form of employee expenses. They also suggest that when councils make applications for variations, they will do so for single issues – due to the binary nature of the ESC’s decision. It is expected that this will lead to higher numbers of variation proposals, potentially leading to higher regulatory costs.
Review and reform opportunities
We’ve been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne and his Department since the election of the Andrews Government and were pleased to inform councils this month that our calls for a review of planning fees have been agreed to. The Department of Land, Environment, Water and Planning has commenced its review, which will include a regulatory impact statement process and new fees expected to commence in the last quarter of 2016. We’ll work closely with councils to provide input to the review to achieve greater cost recovery in planning fees and will also seek indexation of fees to provide future certainty, after the current fees were fixed in 2009.
We can expect the review of the Local Government Act to be far-reaching and comprehensive – not just further revisions to the current legislation – as demonstrated in the recent discussion paper released by the Government. Many aspects of the Act are on the table for changes, and one theme throughout the discussion paper is a focus on longer term council planning and financial processes, which will also assist the Government’s introduction of its rate capping model. We will consult with members to formulate our submission, and councils are also encouraged to have your say before the 18 December deadline. This is an important opportunity to influence the creation of more contemporary legislation that better reflects the roles and responsibilities of modern day local government. A Directions Papers will be released for public consultation in 2016 and we will keep you engaged throughout the review process.
The Municipal Association Act 1907 will also be reviewed alongside the Local Government Act. We’ll seek member views to guide our discussions with Government to ensure your peak body remains independent of Government and is well positioned to continue meeting member needs and expectations.
Finally, a review of public libraries was confirmed in the recent Ministerial Statement on Local Government. It aims to establish future funding arrangement and examine options for shared service delivery to provide Victorians with accessible, modern libraries into the future. Sector input will be critical to the outcomes of this review given that local government is the majority funding partner for this much loved community service. Our efforts will continue to coordinate a united sector response that achieves more sustainable funding and partnership arrangements for libraries
MAV Annual Conference and State Council
Our Annual Conference and Dinner is coming up on 22 October, followed by State Council on 23 October. The program for our conference has just been finalised with a great line up of speakers. Book online to secure your spot.
The MAV will again recognise the contributions of long-serving elected representatives with the presentation of Councillor Service Awards at our annual dinner. Award entries are due this week (by 5pm on Thursday 1 October) and can be submitted in six categories for 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years' service, as well as Mayor Emeritus to recognise three full terms or more as Mayor.
Motions from members have been submitted for State Council and business papers will be distributed to MAV Representatives shortly. State Council will also receive an update on our work over the past six months including our progress implementing the Auditor General's recommendations, and the annual meeting to present our financial report. I look forward to catching up with many of you at these events next month.
If there are any matters you’d like to discuss with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email or phone.