Yesterday the Minister for Local Government, Jeanette Powell announced new Ministerial guidelines on the use of differential rates, but the guidelines document has not yet been publicly released. According to the Minister’s statement, councils will be required to follow a more restrictive method of applying differential rates, involving three rates categories: those that are appropriate; those that are inappropriate; and those that must be carefully considered before being applied.
The guidelines also require that when a council proposes to apply a differential rate to very few properties, it must be carefully considered whether it is an appropriate use of differential rating powers. The Minister can prohibit differential rates that are inconsistent with the guidelines.
Our response states that the rules are an assault on the autonomy of councils to make decisions about equitable rates for their communities, and appear to bypass good policy based on sound reasoning.
Our preliminary legal opinion suggests the Minister doesn’t have the power to confer prescriptive rules and we will be seeking further advice on this matter. We will provide councils with a summary of our revised legal advice when it becomes available, but given the limitations identified in the operation of the Act, there will be major questions about the capacity of the Minister to apply the non-discretionary guidelines.
We will also discuss the guidelines at a forum with metro Mayors and CEOs this Thursday, and call an urgent meeting of rural councils to determine sector views.
Restructure of Victorian Government departments
The Premier this week announced a restructure of the former Departments of Sustainability and Environment; Planning and Community Development; Transport; Business and Innovation; and Primary Industries to place a stronger focus on jobs and investment, to take place from 1 July.
The new Department of State Development, Business and Innovation will be jointly coordinated by Ministers Peter Ryan (State Development) and Louise Asher (Innovation, Services, Small Business). Other portfolios in this department include regional cities; regional and rural development; energy and resources; tourism and major events; and major projects.
The new Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure will be coordinated by Minister for Public Transport and Roads, Terry Mulder. Also within this department are the Ministerial portfolios for local government; planning; ports; sport and recreation. Other functions within this department include VicRoads, VicTrack, Public Transport Victoria, Building Commission, metropolitan planning authority, Places Victoria, Land Victoria and the Office of the Victorian Government Architect.
A new Department of Environment and Primary Industries will be coordinated by Peter Walsh, Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, and include functions including natural resources and environment, land and fire, water, agriculture and fisheries.
MAV Councillor Census 2013
The MAV has partnered with The Australian Consortium for Social and Political Research Inc. (ACSPRI) to conduct the MAV Councillor Census 2013. The census collects important demographic data to enable the analysis of trends and changes in participation of elected members over time.
Councillors will shortly receive an email invitation from ACSPRI with a link to the questionnaire, which takes five minutes to complete. The participation of all councillors is essential to gaining a clear and complete picture of local government representation.
The types of data to be collected include age, gender, ethnicity, disability, caring responsibilities, occupation, education, length of council service and party affiliation.
The census is entirely anonymous. No individual councillor or council will be identified in the data collection, analysis or reporting of the findings.
The last census was undertaken in 2009 after the 2008 elections. A census will be conducted following each round of elections to track changes in representation. We hope to provide a preliminary report on the findings at the MAV Councillor Development Weekend on 26 – 28 July.
For further information contact Betsy Blunsdon from ACPSRI on 9018 8360 or Andrew Rowe at the MAV on 9667 5549.
Outdoor smoking consultations
Councils have an opportunity to provide input to the Victorian Government legislation being developed for proposed new smoking bans in children’s playgrounds, public swimming pools and sea baths, skate parks and children’s sporting events.
The MAV has welcomed the introduction of these bans. They are in line with our recommendations to the Minister for Health in 2011 following two MAV State Council resolutions and extensive consultation with councils about the need for statewide laws in playgrounds and alfresco dining areas. They also reflect our suggestion for an investigation to be undertaken into bans for beaches, sports grounds and facilities, and outside school entrances.
These latest proposals follow the introduction of smoking bans on patrolled beaches between the flags last December. The Department of Health has written to all councils providing further information about what it is planning. It is now seeking council responses via an online survey to assist the development of necessary legislation. In considering their responses, councils may be interested to review the results of the 2012 survey undertaken by the Heart Foundation and Quit Victoria which found that eight councils already have smoking bans for sporting grounds and many more are considering sporting fields to be smoke-free. There are also self-regulation activities being undertaken, such as councils requiring event organisers to implement policies recommended by Quit Victoria and VicHealth in the Going smokefree outdoors - A guide for sporting clubs resource.
A separate community survey has been developed for members of the public and interested organisations such as public health, children’s sporting and recreation bodies and parent organisations. Responses to both surveys are required by Friday 17 May.
For further information contact Rosemary Hancock.
Graduate Diploma of Management – Journey ends for intake one
The two and a half year journey for a group of local government officers and councillors ended on 5 April, with the final class for the first participants in the MAV Swinburne University, Graduate Diploma in Management; Leadership, Governance and Strategy program.
This program was tailored by the MAV and Swinburne University to provide the latest and best thinking from around the world on management, while identifying units that best matched the realities of local government.
The program offers pathways for councillors who want to consider different council and post-council opportunities, and provides a clear management route for officer advancement.
The end of program was celebrated with a small ceremony presided over by MAV President Bill McArthur and Professor Bernadine Van Gramberg from Swinburne Institute of Technology. Some of the group will go on to graduate, while others are considering moving into the MBA stream on the back of the MAV Swinburne program.
A second intake of the program is nearing the half-way point, with opportunities for students to join the program at various points along the way.
For further information contact Andrew Rowe on 9667 5549.
CEOs as Transforming Leaders
On Wednesday 8 May, a workshop especially designed for recently-appointed council CEOs or for those CEOs seeking to refresh or further develop their leadership focus will be held at the MAV.
This free workshop, run from 10 am to 4 pm, will focus on the responsibilities and challenges of council CEOs and is an opportunity to reflect on the leadership needed to put in place to drive change and achieve success.
Participants will be encouraged to share their own leadership issues and start building supportive networks with their colleagues.
The workshop will focus on the shift from transactional to transformative leadership styles and will assist CEOs to set a framework for this transformation within their council context.
For further information contact John Hennessy at the MAV or Chris Meddows-Taylor from the Future of Local Government Program.
Climate Commission report
The Climate Commission has released a new report, The Critical Decade: Extreme Weather. The report details current knowledge about different types of extreme weather events: extreme temperatures, rainfall, drought, bushfires, cyclones and storms. For each weather event the report considers what is an ‘extreme event’; what the consequences are for us over the last several decades or longer; the observed influence of climate change; and how the event is expected to change through the rest of this century.
It finds that climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of many weather events; and making extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment.
The three authors of the paper were Professor Will Steffen and Professor Lesley Hughes, both climate commissioners, and Professor David Karoly, Professor of Climate Science, University of Melbourne and Leader of the Extremes Research Program, at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate.
Local Government Energy Efficiency Program
Applications are open for the Local Government Energy Efficiency Program (LGEEP). The program supports smaller-scale projects in local governing authority buildings and community facilities, to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and provide the best outcome for local communities.
Every council in Australia is eligible to make one application for funding to LGEEP to install solar and/or heat pump hot water systems in one or more of their buildings or community facilities.
Applications close at 5 pm on 29 April.
Data for your region
Data on school completion, labour force participation, family income, unincorporated business income and building approvals is now available on the myregion website to assist local government planning across Victorian communities.
The latest information builds on the growing resource of social and economic data hosted on the myregion website, providing a clearer picture of vital characteristics of each Victorian region in relation to the economy, education and skills, employment, community, housing, income and population.
The data aims to support councils to build an understanding of the broader economic and social context of their region, how these are tracking over time, and how they compare with state and national trends.
The suite of social and economic data complements geo-spatially mapped data on grant round outcomes and government services. Additional data and updates to the existing information will be made over time.
Community Indicators Victoria 101
On Tuesday 30 April, Community Indicators Victoria (CIV) is running a short course to introduce the role of community indicators for evidence-based policy development, planning and monitoring. Using case study examples, it is a useful introduction or refresher for people who may have used CIV. Participants will learn to:
navigate the CIV website and locate relevant wellbeing indicators
create your own Live Reports of wellbeing
interpret report findings
measure wellbeing (utilising the data framework and available metadata), and
develop and publish customised reports to the online library.
In social media news...
Want to know how and when to use social media to strategically support government goals? Read more here.
An updated online game that teaches children how and when to use Triple Zero has been launched. Find out more here.
A writer sued for his twitter followers has settled his case. Read more here.