RV’s Submission to the Local Government Act Review call

Reforms are coming to the Local Government (LG) sector in Victoria. A major activity towards LG reforms is reviewing the present LG Act and restructuring it for re engineering better and community centered councils for us.

This morning, RV just submitted a response to this review. We thank members of our network who also submitted their responses, making sure changes to the Act will be more ratepayer and community centric.

If you want an official reference that confirms the current shortfalls in the LG system, refer to the http://www.yourcouncilyourcommunity.vic.gov.au/discussion-paper for details.

Synopsis:

In the submission, we made the analogy that the LG Act is like an operations handbook for councils. It is purposed to support the State Government (LG Minister) oversee and harmonise the 79 councils’ operations, to ensure peace, order and good government for all Victorians.

A legislated council handbook does not mean the  councils are 79 mini autonomous  State Ministry entities having all and delegated powers to provide municipal services to Victorians. They were and are never the third tier of legitimate government in Australia and should never seek future referendums to become one. Because they are just body corporate entities of the Victorian LG Ministry.

RV used a system reengineering approach to review the LG Act and recommend ideas to make it a better organised, 21st century relevant, and best practice oriented operating handbook. We understand that this handbook is for all councils to refer to and comply with, in order to perform their state-delegated governance and enterprise roles and functions, via municipal service provisioning. Because it is legislated, the Victorian Parliament will approve its contents and purposed uses and any of its future amendments will continue to be sanctioned through state law making procedures.

The submission discussed some ratepayers’ observations, case study exemplary and analytical commentaries about current gaps and reform ideas, which is useful for supporting the LG Act’s restructuring and contents development.

RVI Public Seminar : Reengineering Local Government

A Ratepayers Victoria Inc event in partnership with Eastern Ratepayers Inc

DATE:    Saturday, 14 Nov 2015

TIME:    9:30 am registration, seminar from 10 am to 4 pm

VENUE: Mulgrave Country Club, Corner of Wellington and Jells Road, Mulgrave 3150.

Objectives

  1. Identify the key deficiencies in LG system
  2. Fixing today’s broken system via LG Act reforms
  3. Recognising a peak body for ratepayers in Victoria
  4. Contribute info for RVI submission to the LG Act Review program

 

Contact:  The event is free. For catering purposes, early booking is required by 1 Nov 2015 – please contact either:

  • Jack Davis – jack_d@iinet.net.au; mobile 0412 238 974, or
  • Frank Sullivan – frank.sullivan6@bigpond.com; mobile 0438 555 805

Join us and other ratepayer leaders to discuss about common core issues and how the LG Act and other associated laws, and the roles of ratepayer groups can be changed to fix today’s broken LG system for the better.

The seminar will include free light lunch and feature inspirational speakers including:

Keynote Speakers:

Minister for Local Government , Hon Natalie Hutchins
Assoc Professor of International Business, Sharif As-Saber

Guest Presenters:

Joe Lenzo, Ratepayer advocate leader from Mornington Peninsula Shire 
Carl Cowie
, CEO of Mornington Peninsula Shire
Rafal Kapton, Councilor of Casey
Matthew Gordon, Board Director of Oursay, a digital community engagement platform.
Frank Deutsch, Councilor of Ararat

These guest speakers will share their insights, such as what is wrong with Local Government today, a case study of best practice CEO leadership and council operations transformation; workplace bullying and conduct reforms; using technology as strategic tools for change; community engagement reforms, etc.

RVI President Jack Davis will open the seminar. Seminar attendees will engage in Q&A with the Minister; participate in working lunch breakout group activities to identify key issues in local government and share ideas for reforming the LG Act and formally recognizing a funded ratepayer peak body in the sector.

Because of time management, questions for Q&A will have to submitted to either Jack Davies or Frank Sullivan by 12 Nov 2015 and the submitted questions will be chosen on a first come first serve basis. On-call questions are not allowed on the day of seminar. For those who missed their questions chosen can individually contact and converse with the Minister, through her email natalie.hutchins@parliament.vic.gov.au.

This seminar ‘s focus is to understand the coming reform directions and identify future ratepayers’ roles and driven opportunities for change in a new local government world where “Every council is responsive to, and reflective of, their local community” is evidently effective.

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A Common Vision for ratepayers

The time has come for RVI to help all ratepayer advocates to share a common vision for reform, ie

“Every council is responsive to, and reflective of, their local community”

The institutional translation of this community centered vision is an integral local government system that values and can continuously demonstrate:

  • collaboration,
  • accountability and
  • transparency

to its communities.

The implied social responsibility of this vision also:

  1. requires councils and its peak bodies to understand, practice and show good governance not just in decision making, but also in conduct and action taking, and
  2. involves collaborating ratepayers to be the evidence based assessors of their councils’ good governance performance in not just operating matters, but also policy implementation and sustainability.

Through this common vision, RVI, coordinating effectively with local ratepayer groups, will lead rate-paying people to come together, share knowledge and skills,  build the common processes of grass root governance oversight and reporting of their councils’ performance and capacities to comply with good governance principles in conduct, decision making and implementation.

Information technology will be strategically used to enable share-ability of these community driven processes and information and build a traceable and BIG DATA future proofing repository of empirical evidence & bench-marking data about councils’ capacities to be collaborative, accountable and transparent.

Come to the seminar and listen to how this can be readily achieved. Phase 1 plans are already underway for developing the new ecosystem of interconnecting and value adding ratepayers in the Eastern and Southern regions.

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).

 

ESC rates capping solution is good news for ratepayers

Today’s press release from the Minister of Local Government is signaling the coming of many reform wins for ratepayers. This is the first in ratepayers’ advocacy history that a State Government has not only enabled but actually EMPOWERED the ratepayers community to play an important and effective role in contributing to developing the ESC’s rates capping solution. We highly commend Minister Hutchins for setting this first empowering precedent in ratepayers engagement.

RVI’s participation in Minister’s Fair Go Rates Reference Group has helped to ensure the draft ESC rates capping solution is ratepayers/community centric, through the governance principles underpinning it. We are also most pleased to see that the draft solution had  included our earlier submission’s proposal to include  setting transparent efficiency forecasts in the rates capping solution and when Councils varies from these efficiency measures, they will have to justify with sound business case evidence and get consensus support from their ratepayers.

RVI, working with other collaborating ratepayers groups, will continue to support and contribute value add to the development of reforms being planned by the Minister and LGV.

RVI will review the report in greater depth and share our findings online.