Issue 1043:                                              Week ending 4 September 2015

Submission to ESC draft Rates Capping and Variation Framework
Patchwork formally endorsed by Department of Education and Training
Save the date: MAV Annual Conference and Dinner: 22 October

State Government conduct reforms
Governance as Leadership: MAV event

Financial Assistance Grants: campaign update
Victorian Councillor Service Awards 2015
Renewable Energy Roadmap
Education State: Early Childhood Paper
Unconventional gas inquiry: interim report released
VicRoads Traffic Noise Reduction Policy Review
EPA Inquiry consultation sessions
Rural and Regional Local Government Youth Engagement Program
Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan
In social media news...

Submission to ESC draft Rates Capping and Variation Framework

The MAV provided a submission to the Essential Services Commission’s (ESC) draft Rates Capping and Variation Framework last week. The submission highlighted a number of issues that require consideration by the ESC before the framework is finalised and presented to the State Government.

The MAV’s submission highlights the disparity between the process described in the ESC’s draft – which suggests a very difficult variation framework – and its description of the process to the sector – which presents a more accessible regime. This disparity needs to be removed in the final report so it clearly reflects the intent of the ESC.

The MAV is fundamentally concerned that the proposed framework will prevent councils from delivering high quality services and infrastructure to their communities, which will ultimately reduce the liveability of Victoria. Small rural shires also face the prospect of significant financial distress as a consequence of the framework.

The submission also raises concerns with the potential conflict of roles proposed by the ESC as both the arbiter of rating variations and the monitor of the framework’s effects. The MAV believes that an alternative agency should undertake the monitoring role. Further technical issues include the proposed rate capping base, the methodology and process.

For further information, contact Owen Harvey-Beavis.

Patchwork formally endorsed by Department of Education and Training

The MAV is pleased to advise that the Department of Education and Training has endorsed the use of Patchwork by early childhood practitioners working in Department funded services. Information about Patchwork is now available on the Department’s website.

As most councils are aware, Patchwork promotes shared responsibility by agencies in working with families, clients who are in complex and/or challenging situations, and assists in coordination between agencies. Lack of coordination is frequently criticised as a contributing factor in child death inquires. As Patchwork is web-based it has the advantage of easily coordinating practitioners across program silos and geographic areas over time.

From the initial success achieved the MAV and councils would like Patchwork to become integrated into normal practice for collaboration between agencies - which would require a commitment to embedding with all relevant agencies over an estimated three – five year period. We appreciate the ongoing support of many councils in launching this innovation to better support the Victorian community.

For further information, contact Clare Hargreaves.

Save the date: MAV Annual Conference and Dinner - 22 October

Challenge, Transformation, Leadership is the theme for this year’s MAV Annual Conference. It will explore prominent issues and future challenges facing the sector, looking at ways councils can innovatively move forward, while addressing the demand of constricting budgets and maintaining quality of services and fulfilling civic responsibility.

This year's dinner will provide a significant opportunity to network with other councils. Councillor Service Awards will also be presented at the dinner, celebrating the significant commitment and contribution of long-serving councillors.

A detailed program will be released shortly. Registrations can be made online.

State Government conduct reforms

The State Government has announced plans to introduce a proposed Local Government (Improved Governance) Bill 2015, into parliament this month.

So far the proposed changes include requiring councillors to agree to codes of conduct before taking office; making it mandatory for councils to establish procedures to deal with alleged breaches; enabling conduct panels to suspend councillors for six months in instances of serious misconduct; outlawing ward funds; and giving the Minister power to direct councils to improve governance and, on the advice of a municipal monitor, stand down councillors for up to six months to allow a panel to hear the matter.

Once further detail is available the MAV will review the proposed reforms and report back to the sector.

Governance as Leadership: MAV event

The MAV is hosting a Governance as Leadership conference on 9 - 10 November at the Arts Centre Melbourne. This conference will use expert panels and inclusive Q&A discussions to explore the important components of good governance, and will seek out opportunities for new and different approaches including:

  • What might a review of the Local Government Act deliver?
  • Are there new and better ways of building connections and engaging with our citizens?
  • Is representative democracy still the answer or are there new ways to support local democracy?
  • Can we learn from other places – what is happening elsewhere?

Registrations can be made online. For further information, contact John Hennessy.

Financial Assistance Grants: campaign update

Victorian councils will soon receive a further $269.6 million in Financial Assistance Grants from the Federal Government. This is the second half of the 2015-16 grant allocation – the first was received by councils last financial year.

These grants are crucial in helping councils undertake a variety of projects for their communities, particularly infrastructure and local road renewal.

The MAV has partnered with the Australian Local Government Association as part of a national advocacy campaign to have the indexation of these grants restored. The campaign is also calling for the Federal Government to consider the adequacy of the quantum of Financial Assistance Grants, and the indexation methodology in future. Already more than 50 per cent of Victorian councils have passed a motion in support of the campaign, and we would encourage councils that haven't passed a motion to do so as a matter of urgency.

This funding is particularly crucial for rural councils and we would appreciate help in supporting this campaign.

Victorian Councillor Service Awards 2015

The MAV recognises the contribution of all councillors and continues the tradition of conferring awards for long serving councillors.

The awards program comprises six awards. 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 full terms or more as mayor.

Applications for the awards are available online. Completed applications should be received by the MAV before 5pm, 1 October. The awards will be presented at the Annual Conference dinner on 22 October at the Sofitel Hotel, Melbourne.

For further information, contact Andrew Rowe on 9667 5549, or via email.

Renewable Energy Roadmap

The Victorian Government has released its Renewable Energy Roadmap. The Roadmap outlines a set of initiatives aimed at accelerating the development of renewable energy projects in Victoria.

Priority actions identified by the Roadmap include establishing a renewable energy target of no less than 20 per cent by 2020, and using the government’s electricity purchasing power to support the creation of hundreds of renewable energy jobs.

Public consultation on the Roadmap will feed into the development of the Victorian Renewable Energy Action Plan. Details of public forums will be made available online.

Written submissions in response to the Roadmap can be sent via email until 30 September. For further information, contact Claire Dunn.

Education State: Early Childhood Paper

The State Government has released an Education State Early Childhood Consultation Paper which is the third of their Education State Consultation Papers.

All Victorians are encouraged to have their say about the future of early childhood services. The consultation will be open for six weeks and will seek the views of professionals, parents, caregivers, academics, experts and community groups, and will be incorporated into the government’s reform agenda. A link to the document and details of the statewide consultation sessions being held is available online.

The MAV will be providing a response on behalf of local government and has already consulted with the Human Services Committee, and will shortly be consulting with the Early Years Strategy Group.

Responses from councils of key points to be raised by the MAV can be sent to Wendy Allan.

Unconventional gas inquiry: interim report released

The Victorian Parliament’s Environment and Planning Committee has tabled its interim report for the inquiry into unconventional gas in Victoria.

The report notes that the Committee received more than 1,700 written submissions, the vast majority of which expressed concerns about the potential risks an unconventional gas industry could pose to the Victorian environment. The concerns centre on potential risks to Victoria’s prime agricultural land and to the water resources that support agriculture.

The report identifies a number of key issues that the Committee will consider over the next three months, including the prospectivity of commercial sources of unconventional gas in Victoria; the potential risks of the industry to the community; and the legislative and regulatory framework that would govern the industry. The Committee will table its final report by 1 December.

VicRoads Traffic Noise Reduction Policy Review

VicRoads is currently consulting with the community and stakeholders about a review of the Traffic Noise Reduction Policy.

This policy ensures that the traffic noise from Victoria’s freeways and some major roads is kept within a reasonable level, and that priority to reduce traffic noise focuses on those locations with the highest noise levels. The policy was last updated in 2005.

The consultation is currently in the second phase, and VicRoads is requesting submissions on the topic through an online discussion forum, or a regular submission which can be uploaded at the same website.

Consultation closes on 13 September.

EPA Inquiry consultation sessions

Councils and communities are encouraged to provide input to the State Government’s inquiry into the EPA via a series of public consultations being held over the coming weeks.

A discussion paper was released in early August and will form the basis for the consultations. Key themes include land use planning, public health, emergency management, climate change and better regulatory approaches.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee for the inquiry has now published the notes from a roundtable event with local government.

Registrations for public consultations can be made online.

Rural and Regional Local Government Youth Engagement Program

Young people living in rural and regional Victoria will have more opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their local communities with a new round of State Government funding announced.

The $425,000 Rural and Regional Local Government Youth Engagement Program will provide rural and regional councils with grants of up to $30,000 to better support young people to participate in local government and community decision-making.

This can include activities that allow young people to contribute to the way their community addresses youth issues such as youth summits and youth advisory groups. The program will enable councils to develop strategies and practical initiatives to increase the involvement of a more diverse group of young people in community decision making.

Applications are open until 7 October.

Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan

The State Government has released a Victorian public health and wellbeing plan 2015–2019.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 requires the Minister for Health to prepare a state public health and wellbeing plan every four years from September 2011. The Act also recognises local government as a major partner to the State Government in an effort to protect public health and wellbeing in Victoria. Each council is required to prepare a municipal public health and wellbeing plan every four years (following the council election). When preparing this plan a council must have regard to the state public health and wellbeing plan.

This second plan outlines the government’s key priorities over the next four years to improve the health and wellbeing of all Victorians, particularly the most disadvantaged, focusing on healthier eating and active living, tobacco free living, reducing harmful alcohol and drug use, improving mental health, preventing violence and injury, and improving sexual and reproductive health.

The plan focuses on high-level strategic directions, and will be accompanied by a more detailed action plan to be developed along with an outcomes framework.

In social media news...

Upcoming MAV events...

10 - 11 September

The Future of Local Food

10 September

Victorian Local Government Multicultural Issues Network forum

18 September

Social procurement and economic development


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