Looking beyond 2018: Reviewing the Local Government Act 1989 - Presidentís comment
We are in an extremely exciting time of change, transformation and growth for local government in Victoria. The Local Government Act 1989 is being reformed after 25 years. The new Act will be more contemporary and reflect the evolution of local government, as well as societal changes and community expectations.
MAV has consulted widely with the sector in relation to the exposure draft of the Bill. Recently, we hosted six consultation sessions with councils. Over 200 mayors, councillors and officers representing 68 municipalities attended and provided valuable input to inform our sector-wide response.
While the sector is supportive of much in the Bill, there are a number of matters of concern.
One of the fundamental changes in the Bill is the intent to use regulation and guidance (best practice guidelines) rather than detail in the Act. This is a fundamental shift that minimises Parliament’s role in deciding practice in the sector and places it with the Minister.
The Bill also provides for a new suite of high-level strategic documents. These include a 10 year community vision, a four year budget, a 10 year financial plan, a 10 year asset plan and a four year revenue and rating plan in addition to the four year council plan.
While the sector is generally supportive of these requirements, the workload and condensed timeframe (between November 2020 and 30 June 2021) for their development is impractical and virtually unworkable. We are strongly advocating for transitional arrangements to enable the workload to be spread over a more realistic timeframe.
The MAV also reiterates local government’s ongoing opposition to the State rate cap and has called for reconsideration of the arrangements for growth councils, together with a review and streamlining of the application process for a variation to the cap.
Rates are the single biggest component of a council’s income stream. This once in a generation review of the Local Government Act provided a prime opportunity for the State to comprehensively review the rating provisions in conjunction with the sector. This did not eventuate. The sector is very disappointed with this missed opportunity and is seeking further consultation with the State on rating provisions.
We are hopeful that the Government will further engage with the sector on those provisions and issues, where there is very strong opposition to what is being proposed in the Bill. Meaningful consultation with the sector is critical to strengthening the partnership between the State Government and the local government community.