Issue 1016:                                           Week ending 27 February 2015

VAGO report: Effectiveness of Support for Local Government
Results for local government finance audit
MAV welcomes PC recommendations on kindergarten funding
MAV strategic plan consultations: final week
McArthur Local Government Fellowship Award 2015

Record low growth in private sector rates of pay
Tactical Urbanism and Better Blocks workshop
Giant Pine Scale
International Women’s Day
Victorian Councils… it’s time to get film friendly
Review of Regional Development Victoria
Excellence in eGovernment Awards
In social media news...

VAGO report: Effectiveness of Support for Local Government

Today the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office tabled its report 'Effectiveness of Support for Local Government'. This report examined the support services provided by LGV and a limited number of services provided by MAV to local government.

We have provided a copy of the MAV Board's response to all council CEOs, MAV representatives and mayors. Our response is also included in the report at Appendix B.

A key finding of the report was that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning should review and determine the MAV’s functions, roles, responsibilities, powers and obligations…including the role, functions and make-up of the MAV Board.

This view of the MAV is in stark contrast to the QC’s advice to the MAV, provided to VAGO, that the MAV is an independent, member constituted body over which neither the Minister or the State has power to manage or control. As the advice stated..."it would be an incongruous result if a body established to represent the interests of one tier of government was subject to the control or direction of another level of government".

Following the MAV elections on 6 March, our new board will consider options for the MAV's legal structure (including the Municipal Association Act) in consultation with members, to ensure the independence of the MAV in delivering advocacy for and services to our members.

The two key outcomes from the VAGO report for the MAV have been a strengthening of our resolve to remain an independent membership association that will vigorously pursue the priorities defined by our members; and some improvements to our internal processes and practices, particularly how we document them.

Results for LG finance audit

The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office has released its report into the 2013/14 local government financial audits.

The report concludes that councils as a whole maintained financial sustainability year on year, and that Parliament can have confidence in the 2013/14 financial statements of councils.

The report also highlights the ongoing challenge facing councils to deliver high quality community services, maintain existing assets and fund future capital works. This will be a difficult balancing act within the government’s proposed rate capping policy commencing in the 2016/17 financial year.

An increased number of councils were identified as having operating deficits. This increase is largely due a changed payment pattern for Financial Assistance Grants from the Federal Government, which has led to a deterioration in councils’ financial performance, with rural councils most effected. These findings highlight that financial sustainability remains vulnerable to changes from other levels of government.

The report mentions our Aa2 Moody's rated Local Government Funding Vehicle, and a concern that several councils had high financial risk on the basis of low liquidity ratios. We responded that this does not reflect the true financial position of those councils, which adopted short-term borrowings while the LGFV was being established, and temporarily increased their current liabilities.

The Auditor-General has recognised that there are a number of potential options available to councils to repay borrowings, including refinancing.

MAV welcomes PC recommendations on kindergarten funding

The MAV has welcomed the recommendations for continued Commonwealth funding for 15 hours preschool, as outlined in the Productivity Commission (PC) inquiry into Childcare and Early Learning, released last week.

Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison has expressed the Commonwealth Government's intent to listen to the community as it formulates its response.

The report has recognised that universal access to preschool in the year before a child starts primary school is a key measure for ensuring successful learning and development in the early years. We particularly welcome the Commission’s recommendation that Federal Government funding for early childhood education and care should be combined and directed towards three priority areas, including the kindergarten universal access program.

We will further examine the broader recommendations related to early childhood education and care, follow up with the Government, and will keep councils informed of our advocacy progress.

For further information, contact Clare Hargreaves. Please see our website for more information on 15 hours of kindergarten.

MAV strategic plan consultations: final week

The MAV 2015 strategic plan consultation sessions will come to an end next week, with the final two sessions to be held on 27 February in Horsham, and 5 March in Wangaratta.

The consultations are an important way for councils to provide input to the MAV’s strategic work plan for 2015/16.

To RSVP or for more details about our strategic plan consultation sessions contact Gavin Mahoney at the MAV.

McArthur Local Government Fellowship Award 2015

There are only two weeks left to apply for the $12,000 McArthur Local Government Fellowship Award. The purpose of the Fellowship is to allow a current Victorian councillor to undertake international research of a policy area significant to the sector.

The grant is designed to assist with short-term overseas travel, accommodation and associated on-the-ground expenses. While this does not exclude longer trips, the Fellowship is awarded on the basis that costs exceeding $12,000 are the responsibility of the recipient.

There are no restrictions on the areas of research chosen, however proposals that focus on a topical issue with sector-wide applicability will be well regarded. Applications for the Fellowship close at 5pm on 13 March.

Record low growth in private sector rates of pay

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released new figures that show the seasonally adjusted Wage Price Index (WPI) rose 0.6 per cent in the December quarter 2014, and 2.5 per cent over the last year.

Pay rates, excluding bonuses in the private sector, have now been below 3 per cent annually in trend terms for seven successive quarters.

In the public sector, rates of pay excluding bonuses increased 2.7 per cent annually and 0.7 per cent in the quarter, in trend terms.

Tactical Urbanism and Better Blocks workshop

The MAV and Victoria Walks are convening a Tactical Urbanism and Better Blocks workshop on 24 March, to explore how to create quick, inexpensive, high-impact changes that revitalise streets and public spaces, and engage local communities to drive long-term change.

The workshop will be facilitated by Jason Roberts from Better Block, USA, and Lucinda Hartley from CoDesign Studio. This hands-on workshop will provide key insights and tools for how to build better neighbourhoods quickly and simply.

It will be held at the MAV, Level 11, 60 Collins Street from 10am-4pm. Registrations can be made online. For further information, contact John Hennessy.

Giant Pine Scale

This week we sent information to all council communications staff about an outbreak of giant pine scale, to share with their council and communities to help identify and minimise further spread of the pest.

Giant pine scale is a sap-feeding insect which can attack pine, fir and spruce trees. More than 500 infested trees have been detected so far in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

Residents are asked not to touch, move or collect suspected samples or parts of infected trees, but they can report any suspected instances via the toll-free Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. Residents in Victoria can also email photos of the suspected pest, together with a contact phone number and location.

Among resources sent to councils was a fact sheet from the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, who also have a range of helpful information on their website.

For further information, contact Lewis Hill.

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day will be held on 8 March, and councils are encouraged to get involved, with many already planning to hold events to inspire women.

The theme for the day is ‘Make it Happen’. Events can be registered online.

Councils can also share their events on social media using the hashtag #womensday and #makeithappen.

Victorian Councils… it’s time to get film friendly

On 1 March, all Victorian councils and agencies will need to comply with the Filming Approval Act 2014. This means your council will need its own webpage for filming and a dedicated person or team to manage enquiries in a timely manner.

The Victorian Film Friendly Guidelines will assist you in understanding the new requirements and encourage dialogue and collaboration between everyone involved in getting the right approvals to film on public land.

Film Victoria has developed a number of resources to assist councils and public agencies, including a film permit application form and webpage content.

If you have any questions, or for a copy of Film Victoria resources, contact the Film Friendly team, or visit Film Victoria’s website.

Review of Regional Development Victoria

The State Government has announced an independent review of Regional Development Victoria’s strategic priorities to better drive jobs, investment and growth in regional Victoria.

The government wants feedback directly from regional leaders about key priorities for each region, current regional strategic and related planning models and their views on the effectiveness of investment and delivery of regional services, including emergency management.

An external advisory group of regional leaders will oversee this review and will be chaired by an eminent person with a long-demonstrated commitment to regional Victoria.

Excellence in eGovernment Awards

The 2015 Excellence in eGovernment Awards, ICT Professional of the Year Award, and the ICT Young Professional of the Year Award (the Awards) are now open for online nominations.

The Awards are a great way of recognising and acknowledging innovative projects, ICT teams and individuals in agencies. Nominations close at 6pm, 3 March. The Awards will be presented at the CeBIT Gala Dinner and Awards night at CeBIT Australia 2015 in Sydney on 6 May.

If you need further information please contact the Awards Coordinator, or phone 02 6215 3060.

In social media news...

Upcoming MAV events...

11 March

Municipal emergency management enhancement group strategic planning day

12 March

Local government identifying family violence training

13 March

Planning and specification development course


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