News and resources

Issue 49 January 2016

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

Issue 49, January 2016

Welcome to my first update for 2016. It looks set to be a hectic, challenging and fascinating year for the local government sector.

A federal election is on the cards, NSW councils are facing forced amalgamations, and in Victoria there will be council elections, a new rate capping regime, and a comprehensive overhaul of our guiding legislation. In addition, councils are also implementing and integrating the ‘Improved Governance’ changes that came in late last year and preparing for the remainder, anticipated to commence within the next two months.

Stand for Council campaign

All councils will go to election on 22 October, including a long awaited return of local democracy to communities in Brimbank and Wangaratta.

Our stand for council campaign is taking shape to help encourage prospective candidates to find out more about what it takes to be a councillor and to increase the diversity of people nominating.

We’ll soon commence an online survey to capture councillors’ views of your term in office - the rewards, challenges and other lessons learned to help inform our stand for council campaign commentary. I hope you will take a brief moment to give us some valued feedback.

Our offer to host candidate information sessions will go out to councils by March, and we’re currently making some changes to strengthen the way sessions will be run. This responds to member feedback received in 2012, when we ran a record 80 sessions.

A rebranded stand for council public awareness campaign will launch in May to support the sessions hosted by councils and to complement the VEC’s public information role.

The MAV’s events calendar has also been adjusted to take account of the elections, with our second State Council meeting for 2016 and our annual conference both brought forward to September, and a number of post-election events instead of our Councillor Development Weekend.

MAV strategic planning meetings

Early next month we commence meetings across the state for members to participate in our annual strategic planning process.

Our priorities are guided by member input, through both State Council and our strategic planning meetings. This year we will be improving our strategic planning process following advice from Ernst Young on aligning our Work Plan with strategic objectives, implementing benchmarking and strengthening our reporting on the strategic value of our activities.

I encourage all councillors, CEOs and senior council staff to come along to one of the eight scheduled meetings listed below to provide input that will inform our strategic work plan for 2016/17.

Rural north central region: 8 February 12-2pm, Bendigo
Gippsland region: 23 February 12.30 – 2.30pm, Traralgon
Melbourne: 23 February 6-8pm, MAV offices
Melbourne: 25 February 2-4pm, MAV offices
Rural north west region: 26 February 12.30 – 2.30pm, Edenhope
Hume region: 3 March 10am – 12pm, Wangaratta
Rural south central region: 10 March 4-6pm, Geelong
Rural south west region: 11 March 11am – 1pm, Warrnambool

Further details about the session venues are available. If you’d like to come along to any of the meetings, please register your attendance with Gavin Mahoney.

Rate capping update

Notifications are due this week to the Essential Services Commission for councils who wish to keep open the option of applying for a variation to the 2.5 per cent rate cap set by the Minister in December.

Many councils have told me they will be trying to adjust their budgets to fit within the cap, and a number of you have raised the need to strengthen communications so your communities clearly understand the consequences and implications of a tighter budget on local services and planned infrastructure works.

The MAV’s Step Financial Sustainability Program has conducted two series of regional workshops on Better Practice in Service Planning and Community Engagement in a financially-constrained environment. The key discussion focused on methodologies to help councils make informed comparative choice decisions about the scope and level of services they deliver in the future. It was agreed that common tools and templates would be produced to support councils. These regional workshops will continue in 2016.

For councils who will seek a variation and intend to run a dual community consultation process to gather feedback on a budget that proposes rates above the cap, the MAV will be offering our support and expertise through these unchartered waters.

The Commission’s variation model is untested. We don’t yet know whether it will be a simple or onerous process, the amount of community consultation that will be deemed sufficient, or the likelihood that a variation will be granted.

For our part, the MAV has begun briefing journalists on the variable impacts of the cap and why many individual ratepayers are unlikely to see a 2.5 per cent increase in their rates bill, as well as the consequences of property revaluations. A story ran across Leader newspapers earlier this month, and we will be developing materials to assist councils, journalists and communities to better understand these impacts.

LG Act Review

Our submission to the Review of the Local Government Act represents the positions articulated by at our very successful LGA Review Roundtable of Roundtables and your feedback to our draft submission.

This is only the start of the review path and we look forward to exploring your preferred approaches to the various issues in the State’s subsequent consultation phases over the coming year.

Digital Transformation Taskforce

An exciting new MAV initiative is underway to help councils progress innovative digital transformation projects.

We are establishing a Local Government Digital Transformation Taskforce to oversee activities, examine collaborative partnership opportunities and set a strategic direction for the sector. It will report to the MAV Board, and include representatives from all levels of government, as well as the private sector.

There are five council CEO positions available on the Taskforce, and nominations are welcome by 3 February. For further information, or to register interest, please contact Polly Banks by 3 February. Appointments will be confirmed by 9 February.

Strengthening early years’ service partnerships

In December, the MAV met with the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) to discuss a range of social policy matters including the NDIS, Family Violence Royal Commission, early years services, complex clients and Patchwork. We are pleased the Department has agreed to ongoing dialogue to improve coordination and planning for early years’ services.

This month, we also made a submission to the Senate inquiry into the Commonwealth Government’s Jobs for Families Child Care Package Bill currently before Parliament.

Our response recommends extending the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education on an enduring basis beyond 2017 to give future certainty to 15 hours kindergarten; and establishing a Commonwealth-State-Local government early childhood education and care planning body to address current and future service provision issues.

The Senate’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee is due to report on this inquiry by mid-March.

I look forward to catching up with many of you over the coming weeks as we travel around the state. Until then, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if there is any matter you’d like to raise with me.

Best wishes
Bill