Federal Budget: cuts a blow to councils
The Federal Government’s budget cuts to Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) is a massive blow to the local government sector and communities.
The negative impacts of the budget will begin immediately with the indexation of FAGs frozen for the next three years.
In Victoria it represents a $91 million funding cut over three years, which includes a loss of $13.3 million to councils in the coming financial year.
The current HACC program will become part of the Commonwealth Home Support Program in July 2015. Six per cent growth, plus indexation, will apply to the Victorian HACC program in 2014-15. The proposed reduction of growth funds from 6 per cent per annum to match population growth of 3.5 per cent, plus annual indexation, is to begin mid-2018.
The budget did not announce any new funding for 15 hours of kindergarten. We anticipate more information after the completion of the National Partnership Agreement review in June (see below).
Other budget measures include $12.6 million over four years for reinstatement of the national occasional care program which will operate as it did previously, with states and territories contributing 45 per cent of the costs. There are also changes to the Community Support Program (CSP); from 1 July 2015 all Family Day Care schemes will be subject to eligibility criteria for funding with a $250,000 cap on the operational support provided through the CSP.
National partnership on preventive health: breached
Funding to the Commonwealth/State partnership agreement on preventative health has ceased, despite being signed to continue until 2018.
Funding will cease in June this year for the Healthy Children and Workers, and Healthy Communities components of this national partnership. This will impact on local government and on their partner agencies, particularly community health.
This accounts for a $57.7 million shortfall in funding in Victoria. The loss is around $12 million to the 14 councils in the healthy together communities’ sites annually. Approximately 100 staff are affected across the state.
The loss of focus on preventative health measures and initiatives is of concern, especially as there was so much traction developed at a local level, and councils’ roles were being resourced and recognised. The breach of a contractual agreement between the Commonwealth and State Government is of major importance, and the State Government is negotiating with the Commonwealth regarding this announcement.
The MAV is further analysing the budget and will provide updates to councils.
15 hours kindergarten funding: councils continue advocacy
Councils are urged to continue their advocacy efforts to ensure the Australian Government continues to fund 15 hours of kindergarten.
The 2014-15 Federal Budget papers did not commit funding for the additional five hours beyond December 2014, when the current National Partnership Agreement expires.
Future government funding beyond that time was listed in the budget papers as ‘not for publication'. However, the budget noted that provision has been made for additional funding in 2014‑15 and 2015‑16, subject to negotiations with the states.
The Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley, has advised states and territories that a decision on future funding arrangements will not be made until completion of the Review on the National Partnership on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education, in June.
For further information, contact Clare Hargreaves. For advocacy information and support contact Jan Barrett.
Multicultural Community Infrastructure Fund
Applications for the Multicultural Community Infrastructure Fund are now open.
The fund is a new $6 million investment by the Victorian Government over two years (2014-16) to maintain and enhance the physical expression of multicultural Victoria and support important community assets for the benefit of all Victorians.
Grants ranging from $20,000 to $750,000 (with a matched funding requirement) will be provided to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community organisations and local councils to:
- Restore or construct community facilities used by CALD communities
- Enhance streetscapes in cultural precincts across Victoria.
Expressions of interest can be submitted from 7 May until 15 June.
Councillors' representations on immigration matters
The Victorian Office of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has advised that the best approach for councillors dealing with immigration enquiries from constituents is to refer matters to Federal MPs.
As immigration is a Federal portfolio, there is generally at least one electorate officer in every Federal MPs office who has experience dealing with these matters. These electorate officers also have access to a DIBP contact for more complex enquiries.
DIBP has advised they cannot extend their Parliamentary Liaison Unit service to councillors for reasons including the privacy principles around ‘implied consent’.
Refugee Week is coordinated by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) and will be held from is 15-21 June.
It is Australia's peak annual activity to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.
Refugee Week includes World Refugee Day on 20 June. Local councils are encouraged to participate.
Victorian Indigenous remembrance service
For many years the Victorian Aboriginal community have actively sought acknowledgement of the contribution of Indigenous service men and women to the defence of Australia.
In order to further recognise their contribution, a plaque was installed in 2008 at the Shrine of Remembrance Garden at the base of a large Golden Cypress tree, opposite tram stop 18 on St Kilda Road.
Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal Affairs, Tim Bull, together with the Victorian Indigenous Remembrance Committee, will honour Indigenous service men and women on Saturday 31 May, 11.00am at the Eternal Flame, Forecourt, Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne. All are welcome.
National Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week
Flying the Indigenous Flags on National Sorry Day and throughout National Reconciliation Week confirms our national respect for Indigenous Australians.
From now until 3 June the Australian Aboriginal Flag, and the Torres Strait Islander Flag, should be flown on additional flagpoles, where available, next to or near the Australian National Flag on Victorian Government buildings and establishments. Other organisations are encouraged to follow this protocol.
If there is only one flagpole available at a flag station, the Australian Aboriginal Flag or the Torres Strait Islander Flag should not replace the Australian National Flag. If two flagpoles are available, it is at the discretion of the authority concerned to determine which of the two flags is flown with the Australian National Flag.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag have equal status and may be flown in any order after the Australian National Flag.
Walk to School grants for councils
VicHealth invites councils to apply for grants of up to $10,000 to coordinate Walk to School 2014 and deliver local initiatives to support ongoing active travel by primary school-aged children.
Walk to School is a popular annual event which raises awareness of the physical, environmental and social benefits of active transport, and encourages school children to walk to and from school more often.
This year Walk to School will take place from 6-31 October.
By encouraging children and families to walk to school, councils can promote health and wellbeing, sustainability and healthy local environments, and connect with local schools. VicHealth has a range of tools and resources available to help councils coordinate Walk to School in their area, and promote active transport in their communities.
Grant applications close at 5pm on Friday 6 June.