Rate Capping Policy Development

 Ratepayers Victoria Inc (RVI) has been very busy contributing to the rate capping policy development. Our committee members have been submitting several different perspectives in responding to the Essential Services Commission (ESC) papers, including the latest report proposing a rates capping solution, that has considered a balance perspective of all stakeholders’ views and interests. From that angle, the solution is also explicitly ratepayers inclusive, emphasizing the need for effective community engagement, and transparent and quality business cases when councils seek to vary their rate increases from capped targets.

We also have nominated Dr Chan Cheah to be the official RVI spokesperson in the Fair Go Rates Reference Group, who meets with the Minister, to be briefed and discuss about the incremental progress milestones of the policy development. The panel comprises of people from councils, peak bodies, unions and two ratepayers groups – RVI and the Victorian Farmers Federation, and organisers from Local Government Victoria (LGV) and ESC, and including Local Government (LG) Minister Hutchins. We had two meetings so far, and the scope of meeting agendas were also presented in public briefings organised by the ESC. If you have not attended these public meetings, the next coming ones are scheduled as follows (we already send a notice last week):

ESC is asking for feedback submissions to their report 2 – found in http://www.esc.vic.gov.au/getattachment/658ebba8-0cdc-4845-8535-a70f79b75626/Draft-Report-A-blueprint-for-Change-Local-Governme.pdf. The deadline for public submission is 28 August. RVI will be submitting several responses, facilitated by several individuals and groups who are submitting their different analytical perspectives, the purpose to give a diverse range of ideas and analytical insights for the ESC.

There is also a Parliament inquiry about rate capping – for details refer to http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/about/news/2664-rate-capping-inquiry-invites-submissions.

LG Act Review

On Tuesday, 11 August, the office of Minister Hutchins released a press media communique announcing “The Andrews Labor Government is getting on with its election commitment to review the Local Government Act 1989, to improve accountability and create a more contemporary, accessible Act to meet the current and future needs of Victorian communities”. Details can be found in http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/about/news/2664-rate-capping-inquiry-invites-submissions.

Collaborating with other ratepayer groups, we have formed a working group to be actively involved in strategically contributing to this second and major reform initiative. This LG Act Review is a major opportunity for Victorian ratepayer groups and advocates to influence the reshaping of the current LG Act, which is currently biased in its subjective and varying interpretative applications, which often go against ratepayers.

On Saturday November 14 , we are hosting a Victorian Ratepayers Seminar, themed “Re-engineering Local Government”. This seminar will enable us to facilitate discussions and review feedback from ratepayer groups and advocates to work out the different future scenarios of a new future LG environment.  We envisage a new and better future that will be governed by a refreshed and ratepayers inclusive LG Act, fosters a balance of stakeholders’ views and interests, requires active community/council collaborations in decision making and shows explicit evidence of good governance when addressing all matters of local municipal government. We see ratepayers will play a major and collaborative roles in prioritizing local services and exercising community driven governance oversight, assuring and ensuring services meet real community needs and that explicit good governance becomes business as usual and a future visible norm in all Victorian Councils.

We are inviting individuals and groups to present at this seminar, summarizing their local issues and root causes stemming from the 7 principles of good governance described in the Good Governance Guide. Discussions will be facilitated  to use the presented information to identify and scope appropriate and effective changes to the LG Act. Through this approach, we would be identifying changes that would help us:

  • prevent and mitigate our current issues we face with our councils today and
  •  make a sustainable LG system that is stakeholders equitable, ratepayers/communities inclusive, transparent, traceably accountable, community responsive, efficient and effective and fosters both the letter and spirit of the law.

The working group is also developing a survey to assess the good governance capacity of councils, which we are aiming to have it integrated in mainstream LG system in the future.  There are more new initiatives and creative innovations currently under early planning in our strategic development pipeline. We will keep you posted on future updates.

If you are interested to be a presenter or guest speaker or to attend the 14 November Victorian Ratepayers Seminar: Reengineering Local Government, please email either Jack Davies (jack_d@iinet.net.au) or Dr Chan Cheah (chancheah@gmail.com).