News and resources

Issue 47 November 2015

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

Issue 47, November 2015

Rate capping

This month the Local Government Amendment (Fair Go Rates) Bill was passed in Victorian Parliament without amendment. I was disappointed to see the legislation, which gives substantial discretionary power to the Minister to set a rate cap or caps each December outside of the Parliamentary process, receive support from the Liberal opposition. It was only opposed by the Greens in the Assembly. It was passed in the Upper House but again opposed by the Greens, along with some of the minor parties.

Delegates attending our Rate Capping Forum last week heard from the Essential Services Commission, and received advice on potential municipal reforms that can help councils to prepare for the rate cap regime. This included ways to better engage communities to have conversations about budget priorities, debt structuring, asset management, as well as joint procurement, resource sharing and digital innovation opportunities to reduce costs and continue to improve efficiency.

We will closely monitor the impact of rate capping and make sure communities are aware of any negative impacts. We encourage councils to be open and honest with communities regarding the consequences that rate capping will have on the level and quality of services.

We are also continuing to work on a range of programs with councils that can realise cost savings and find smarter ways of doing business.

Local Government Act review

It was pleasing to see such a strong member attendance at our roundtable sessions earlier this month to inform a sector response to the Local Government Act review.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to influence the legislative framework for the future of local government in Victoria. Because of the likely diversity of views across the sector, I strongly encourage councils, councillors and chief executive officers to make their own submissions as well as contributing to the MAV sector response.

Our draft submission will be circulated early next week for member input, and we’d welcome your comments by 14 December to ensure our response reflects your views.

Sustainability Fund spending priorities

The draft Sustainability Fund Priority Statement was released by the Victorian Government earlier this month, following recent MAV criticism that the fund has accumulated almost half a billion dollars in unspent State landfill levies over the past five years.

The Statement outlines the State’s strategic priorities for future allocation of accrued landfill levy funds. As confirmed in the Environment Protection Authority annual report, the balance of the Sustainability Fund at 30 June was $430.7 million.

Our submission will continue to advocate for greater investment of the levy into local waste management and resource recovery initiatives that reduce waste being deposited at landfill, and we’d like to see all Sustainability Funds spent within two years of being collected. A draft of our response was this week circulated to MAV members for your feedback, and we’d be grateful if you could get comments to Claire Dunn by 11 December.

Local Roads and Transport Congress

This month I attended the two-day ALGA Local Roads and Transport Congress in Ballarat.

The 2015 National State of the Assets report was released, confirming an estimated $47 billion of road and community infrastructure managed by councils is in need of significant renewal. The report recommends a national intergovernmental plan to lift productivity and improve Australia’s competitiveness. The ALGA also launched a community infrastructure proposal, supported by the MAV, calling for Federal investment of $300 million a year for five years to fund the renewal and maintenance of existing community infrastructure to promote economic development opportunities where they are needed most, particularly in rural and regional communities.

During a conversation I had with the federal Minister for Local Government, he expressed a keen interest in our Local Government Funding Vehicle model and showed a good awareness of our Step Asset Management program. We look forward to further opportunities to show him how Victorian councils are driving innovative reforms to provide for the needs of our communities, and reinforce the valuable funding partnership that exists between Commonwealth and local government.

Spotlight on gender equity

Last week marked the beginning of the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign that runs through until 10 December, the International Human Rights Day.

Together with MAV staff, I participated in the 7th annual Walk Against Family Violence on Wednesday as part of White Ribbon Day. The MAV has also pledged our support for the State Government’s new Victoria Against Violence campaign which is linked to the United Nations’ Orange the world: End violence against women and girls initiative. It’s great to see many councils and other organisations ‘going orange’ during the 16 days of activism to engage and educate communities about the link between violence against women and gender inequality.

Places will also fill fast for our one-day forum on 16 December in partnership with Our Watch and the City of Melbourne. A strong line-up of speakers includes Rosie Batty, Australian of the Year; Fiona Richardson, Minister for Women and Prevention of Family Violence; Our Watch and Ben Rimmer, CEO at Melbourne City Council.

Councils are well placed to continue to effect change in preventing violence against women and promoting gender equity through a range of community services including maternal and child health, home and community care, emergency management recovery, and youth services. Councils’ work will be showcased at our forum and I am proud to be part of Victorian local government’s leadership in this area, which is being admired and emulated both nationally and internationally.

On a final note, it’s pleasing to see the number of women mayors being elected – 25 (1 in 3) have been confirmed, with several mayoral elections still to be conducted. GoWomenLG launched last week, and will be complemented by the MAV’s 2016 Stand for Council campaign to encourage equal participation and representation of women in local government. A fifth edition of A Gender Agenda is also being published to support female candidates at the 2016 council elections.

Best wishes
Bill