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"Turning challenges into opportunities" - it's time for State Government to partner with councils

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Victorian councils are likely to welcome the State Government’s pandemic repair plan but have identified the need for a more collaborative relationship between both tiers of government.

We like:

  • Investment in healthcare and mental health
  • Funding for coastal resilience
  • Ongoing commitments for active transport infrastructure

We are concerned about:

  • Lack of visible commitment to Maternal and Child Health funding pressures
  • No money for emergency management in Local Government
  • No additional support for kerbside waste reforms

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has identified several programs that will require collaboration with councils and their communities from today’s State Government budget.

MAV President, Cr David Clark, said the role of local government would be integral in ‘turning challenges into opportunities.

“As the level of government working most closely with communities, we will be central to the implementation of key State Government initiatives across maternal and child health, mental health reform initiatives, early learning and the ‘Living Local Fund’,” Cr Clark said.

“With meaningful engagement, local government can bring this budget to life. This will require a turnaround from our recent experience, where a failure to listen to our sector’s feedback has led to several missed opportunities.

“Money designated to programs that enable social recovery – such as the $3m for social recovery for older Victorians and carers – or for essential services – such as roads, health and mental health – is welcomed.”

The budget’s strengths include in mental health where $30.5m is being spent to promote social inclusion action and an extra $9.1m for pilot programs in 10 municipalities is a welcome start. Alongside the significant spend in health care, this represents an appropriate response to pandemic recovery.

“Local government is encouraged by a number of announcements today, including the funding in health care and particularly in mental health; councils have long led the way in this space and will continue to do so with the help of this funding,” Cr Clark explained.

While the focus on pandemic recovery is understandable, the State Government has again overlooked emergency management in local government – so critical during and after natural disasters.

The State continues to place councils at the forefront of recovery work after natural disasters, without recognising how many councils do not have the capabilities required to fulfill this vital role.

“Councils and communities don’t want to learn the hard way about a lack of investment in emergency management when the next major disaster comes,” Cr Clark said.

We welcome the $16.9m investment in resilient coasts, but this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the funding needed to bolster resilience to climate change. Significant investment in adaptation planning and works is essential to protect our communities and infrastructure.

“While there is ongoing investment in maternal and child health, it is disappointing that there  is not any further investment in this essential service. It’s the same story for kindergartens – significant ongoing investment, no addressing the work force shortages.

“Alarm bells are also ringing about the five per cent increase on fire services levy and 18 percent increase in the landfill levy, which will rake in $441.5 million in 22-23 on the amount of money collected this year. This is in the context that council’s are expected to maintain services while the State has pegged their rates at 1.75% for the coming year.”

In the lead up to this year’s state election, the MAV will continue to highlight the opportunities to work respectfully with local government. Cr Clark lamented the lack of acknowledgement of local government’s role in the budget.

“We want to ensure that Victorian councils are financially independent and able to provide the local services and facilities specific to local needs,” Cr Clark said.

“We’re calling on the State Government for an improved partnership with local government, the success of their own budget depends on it.”

For further information, contact the MAV Strategic Communications team on (03) 9667 5590.