Community infrastructure funding uncertainty
With the election only days away, the ALGA has this week called on the incoming Australian Government to honour Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) commitments made prior to the caretaker period commencing.
Last week Nationals Leader, Warren Truss announced a Coalition Government would provide a $1 billion Stronger Regions Fund over five years, commencing in 2015 with a focus on social and economic infrastructure in regions with high unemployment. While this policy commitment is welcomed by the MAV, there is uncertainty within councils about the status of previously announced RDAF projects and funding.
Mr Truss advised that, if elected, an incoming Coalition Government would honour any contracts already signed and the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport has also stated that it is likely to depend on the status of individual funding agreements and letters of offer for particular projects prior to the caretaker period.
The MAV supports the ALGA’s efforts to seek an urgent resolution to this matter on behalf of all councils in Australia. It is critical that the incoming Government honours the Commonwealth funding commitments already made for projects identified by councils as community priorities based on pre-caretaker RDAF announcements.
Federal funding to Victorian councils
Last week the Minister for Local Government issued a statement announcing that Federal funding to Victorian councils had been cut by $14.8 million this year, which generated a number of media inquiries.
While we welcome the Minister’s concern about the adequacy of Federal funding to local government, we do not believe that there has been a cut to council funding. A vast majority of the purported funding cut was a reduction in the estimated 2013-14 payment as it was specified in the 2012-13 budget. The indexation of Financial Assistance Grants is made under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 and Federal budgets estimate the future payments in line with the predicted growth factors for the program.
A vast majority of the $14.8 million ‘funding cut’ the Minister is referring to is, in fact, an adjustment that has been made to the forward estimates due to changes in inflation and population growth factors between successive Federal Budgets. In addition, small changes were made to funding, in line with normal practice of specifying provisional and final grants. These details are contained in a letter to councils from the Victorian Grants Commission.
The total Commonwealth funding contribution to Victorian local government has risen from $513 million in 2012-13 to $535 million in 2013-14.
For further information contact Owen Harvey-Beavis.
Proposed model for new Metropolitan Planning Authority released
With the cooperative efforts of the Metropolitan Strategy Reference Group, the MAV has developed and released a preferred operational model for the Metropolitan Planning Authority. The model has been sent to the Victorian Government to inform the shape, role, function and governance of the proposed Authority.
In it, we also call for a formal State-local government protocol to be developed to determine the definition, criteria and thresholds by which areas and projects of ‘metropolitan significance’ are identified. The protocol would confirm and re-state the principles of subsidiarity and outline rules governing matters dealt with by the Minister, the MPA and local government in the Metropolitan Strategy.
Melbourne was last week named the world’s most liveable city for the third time running in The Economist Intelligence Unit Survey; we want to ensure that its fantastic reputation is continued. The MAV would like to thank councils for their participation, particularly members of the Reference Group and MAV Planning Committee who provided invaluable advice throughout the process.
Protected Disclosure Act
The MAV recently compiled a list of the key changes in protected disclosure legislation brought about by the introduction of the Protected Disclosure Act 2012 which replaced the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act 2001 on 10 February 2013. This comparison is available on our members’ only website.
Compliance with the Protected Disclosure Act was required by Victorian government entities by 11 August 2013.
enables people to make disclosures about improper conduct within the public sector without fear of reprisal
aims to ensure openness and accountability by encouraging people to make disclosures and providing certain protections for people who make disclosures
carries a number of civil and criminal penalties related to breaching confidentiality.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) is responsible for ensuring public bodies have effective procedures in place for the management of protected disclosures. It has developed a set of guidelines to assist public bodies to interpret and comply with the new Act.
Updated mapping for bushfire management overlay and support material
The Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure briefed councils on the updated mapping for the Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) last week. Planning directors of councils affected by the updated overlay should have received correspondence from the Department outlining the consultation process. Affected property owners to be included in the BMO for the first time, removed from it or subject to a schedule to the BMO will be notified during the third week of September.
An Advisory Committee has been established for affected property owners to seek review if they believe that the updated Bushfire Management Overlay has been incorrectly applied to their own land. Councils can also make a submission through this process.
To assist councils, the MAV, with funding from the Department and support from Casey, Manningham, Golden Plains, Ballarat, Whittlesea, Swan Hill and Surf Coast councils, developed a series of information sheets on the Bushfire Management Overlay for planning permit applicants, designers and builders. The sheets have been distributed to planning directors and managers.
For further information contact Gareth Hately.
Policymaking in a Multi-Polar World
The MAV, in association with the Canadian Public Policy Forum, is holding a workshop on Policymaking in a Multi-Polar World on Tuesday 15 October in Melbourne. The workshop will be presented by Don Lenihan of the CPPF and will explore why government for the future needs greater collaboration. In the past few decades all levels of government have been under increasing strain from three related factors:
socially and economically, our society has become far more complex
politically important events, such as economic shocks or environmental damage, now unfold with incredible speed, and
policy fields are increasingly interdependent, so issues in one area inevitably spill over into another.
As a result, today issues are far more multifaceted and can no longer be managed by government alone.
This day-long seminar provides a practical, learning-intensive introduction to public engagement, based on three questions:
Where and why is the traditional policy process failing?
How can it be redefined to accommodate the new realities - in particular, more public involvement?
How do we mitigate the risks for decision-makers?
For further information contact John Hennessy.
Victorian Councillor Service Awards
The MAV recognises the contribution of all councillors and continues the tradition of conferring awards for long serving councillors.
Long service is recognised at the levels of 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years’ service. The award of Mayor Emeritus will recognise councillors that have served three or more full terms as mayor.
Applicants must be current councillors. Service can be accumulated for multiple Victorian municipalities and does not have to be completed in consecutive years. Information supplied in support of applications for the awards must be certified to be correct by your council CEO. If service has been completed for another municipality not affiliated with the council prior to amalgamation, written confirmation must be sought from the CEO of the relevant municipality by your council’s CEO before authorising the application.
Information and application forms have been sent to CEOs and councillor support officers. Completed applications should be received by 5 pm on Tuesday 8 October. The awards will be presented at the Annual Conference dinner on Thursday 24 October at the Sofitel Hotel, Melbourne. Conference registrations will open shortly.
Previous award winners can be viewed on the MAV website. For further information contact Andrew Rowe on 9667 5549.
VAGO report into infrastructure and services for growth areas
The Victorian Auditor General has released a report into developing transport infrastructure and services for population growth areas.
The report concludes that "over many years, the state has failed to deliver the transport infrastructure and services needed to support rapidly growing communities" and that "inadequate public transport and growing gaps in the road network in these communities are creating barriers to mobility, including access to critical services, education and employment opportunities".
The report supports the MAV’s position expressed in both the submissions to the Melbourne Metro Strategy and the Transport Position Paper.
The Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment (East West Link and Other Projects) Bill 2013 was also passed in the Legislative Council this week and is awaiting assent.
For further information on the MAV’s role in the Melbourne Metro Strategy, contact Gareth Hately. For details on the MAV’s Transport Position Paper, contact James Cleaver.
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has provided information for councils on swooping birds now that the swooping season has commenced.
This week the MAV sent these resources to councils for their dissemination and use in customer service centres. Please feel free to use them to help inform your community about swooping birds.
DEPI is encouraging people to notify others in their local area about swooping birds. Report a swooping incident by any species of bird to the Customer Service Line (136 186) or send a tweet to @DEPI_Vic with the location details and #swoopvic so it can provide advice to the community on any swooping hotspots throughout Victoria. Reported swooping hotspots will be identified on Victoria’s Magpie Map.
The Social Atlas map series provides a pictorial representation of key themes from 2011 Census data. Themes include population, cultural diversity, labour force, families and households, income, education and dwellings.
The Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure recently released maps for Victoria's regional cities, in addition to the existing greater Geelong area and metropolitan Melbourne maps.
For additional information contact the Department.
Fire Awareness Awards
Nominations for the 2013 Fire Awareness Awards are now open. Councils are encouraged to consider applying for these awards and grants that recognise innovative approaches to fire awareness, prevention, recovery, response, safety and preparedness.
There are two types of grants on offer; the RACV Insurance Fire Innovation Grant of up to $10 000 and three special incentive grants each valued at up to $2 000. The grants are available for new projects or to further develop an existing fire project.
The winning projects will successfully reduce the number or impact of fire in Victoria. Successful projects can be on a local, regional or statewide scale.
Entries close on 30 September. Recipients will be announced at the awards presentation event on 4 December.
In social media news...
A new ‘Our City’ app has just been released by the National Trust. Find out more here.
There’s been contention over muzzling Government employee tweets. Read more about the incident in question and some background on the legal case.
The Australian social media statistics for July 2013 have been published. Read more here.
A UK councillor has shared his view on using Skype to reach out to residents. Find out more here.