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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27806" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo courtesy of SBS.[/caption]

Cristy Clark, Southern Cross University

The New South Wales state government has passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city.

In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:
"… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law."
As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.
Further reading: Ban on sleeping rough does nothing to fix the problems of homelessness

Real problem is lack of affordable housing

In contrast to her Melbourne counterpart, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had been adopting a more human-rights-based approach to resolving the challenges presented by the Martin Place camp. After negotiating with camp organisers, Moore made it clear her council would not disperse the camp until permanent housing was found for all of the residents. As she pointed out:
"You can’t solve homelessness without housing — what we urgently need is more affordable housing and we urgently need the New South Wales government to step up and do their bit."
It’s no secret that housing affordability in both Sydney and Melbourne has reached crisis point. And homelessness is an inevitable consequence of this. But we have seen little real action from government to resolve these issues. The NSW government has been offering people temporary crisis accommodation or accommodation on the outskirts of the city. This leaves them isolated from community and without access to services. In contrast, these inner-city camps don’t just provide shelter, food, safety and community; they also send a powerful political message to government that it must act to resolve the housing affordability crisis. Having established well-defined rules of conduct, a pool of shared resources and access to free shelter and food, the Martin Place camp can be seen as part of the commons movement. This movement seeks to create alternative models of social organisation to challenge the prevailing market-centric approaches imposed by neoliberalism and to reclaim the Right to the City.
Further reading: Suburbanising the centre: the government’s anti-urban agenda for Sydney

We should be uncomfortable

It is not surprising that right-wing pundits have described these camps as “eyesores” or that they make NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian “completely uncomfortable”. The breach of human rights these camps represent, and the challenge they pose to the current system, should make people uncomfortable. Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has very limited legal protections for human rights. In this context, actions like the Martin Place and Flinders Street camps are one of the few options available to victims of systemic injustice to exercise their democratic right to hold government to account. In seeking to sweep this issue under the carpet, both the City of Melbourne and the NSW government are not only further breaching the right to adequate housing, they are also trying to silence political protest. It is clear from Moore’s demands, and the NSW government’s own actions, that the Martin Place camp is working to create pressure for action. What will motivate the government to resolve this crisis once the camps have been dispersed? As Nelson Mandela argued in 1991 at the ANC’s Bill of Rights Conference:
"A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care, is to use first-generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socioeconomic inequality is entrenched. "We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society."
Mandela’s words were hugely relevant to apartheid South Africa, where a ruling elite had established a deeply racist and unjust system that linked political disenfranchisement and material deprivation. But they also resonate today in Australia where inequality is on the rise – driven in large part by disparities in property ownership. The ConversationHomelessness is a deeply dehumanising force that strips people of access to fundamental rights. The policies that are creating this crisis must be seen as unacceptable breaches of human rights. We need to start asking whether our current economic system is compatible with a truly democratic society. Cristy Clark, Lecturer in Law, Southern Cross University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Clearing homeless camps will make the problem worse [post_excerpt] => "You can’t solve homelessness without housing." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => clearing-homeless-camps-will-make-problem-worse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:22:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:22:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27804 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27748 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-03 17:02:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-03 07:02:40 [post_content] => As the council amalgamations fiasco rolls on, it is becoming apparent that for some of the administrators, being lavished millions of dollars of government funds to spend at their discretion is becoming too strong an attraction to say goodbye to at the coming elections. Standing for elections So far at least two administrators have declared their intention to stand for office at the coming council elections. Queanbeyan-Palerang administrator Tim Overall and Armidale regional administrator Ian Tiley have both confirmed they will be standing for election, despite what many believe is an obvious conflict of interest in their current positions as administrators. The Greens believe the Premier must immediately direct these administrators to withdraw their nominations. Greens MP and local government spokesperson David Shoebridge said: “It’s not unlawful, but there is no doubt that it is deeply inappropriate for administrators to be running for council elections. “These administrators have been given an enormous platform in their local communities over the last 18 months, not to mention access to millions of dollars in council funds and community grants. “There is an obvious conflict of interest if administrators are now putting their hand up to run at the upcoming local government elections, after being given the role of a cashed-up local despot for 18 months. “These individuals have had well over a year to implement their agenda and build on their existing local profile, they should not be able to run at the upcoming elections. “The Liberal National government’s forced amalgamation mess continues to be plagued with dysfunction, and as always they treat residents and ratepayers like mugs. “Any competent government would have outlawed this practice; instead we have the Liberal Nationals in charge. “If the Premier had any respect for local communities, she would immediately direct these administrators to withdraw their nominations for council.” Mr Shoebridge said. In the meantime in Sydney, a NSW Government-appointed administrator is seeking to sell off commercial waste services on the eve of council elections United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said a forcibly-merged council in Sydney’s west has come under fire after it was revealed that it will no longer be able to provide waste services to more than 1,000 commercial and trade customers, following a decision to outsource domestic waste services and sell off its fleet of garbage trucks. Cumberland Council, which was formed following the forced merger of Holroyd Council with Auburn and parts of Parramatta, has admitted in council business papers that as a result of the controversial decision by NSW Government-appointed administrator Viv May to outsource domestic waste services, the council would no longer be able to provide services to commercial clients, either. In June, Mr May awarded a $68 million contract to United Resource Management to run domestic waste services for ten years, Mr Kelly said. “The sale of Council’s fleet means Council will not be able to service its trade and commercial waste customers in the future,” the council document states. Mr May is expected to use the next council meeting — the final one before democracy is restored with the election of new councillors next month — to approve a plan to seek expressions of interest from private waste operators to also take over Cumberland Council’s commercial waste operations. Mr Kelly, whose union represents more than 30,000 local government workers across the state, said the NSW Government needed to urgently intervene to prevent the loss of further services ahead of new councillors being elected. “Just a week after Premier Gladys Berejiklian publicly abandoned the NSW Government’s failed policy of forcibly amalgamating councils, one of her government’s administrators is making a last-ditch effort to sell off community services before council elections can take place next month,” Mr Kelly said. “During the past month, this unelected and unaccountable administrator has locked ratepayers into a costly outsourcing arrangement for the next decade, decided to sell the fleet of garbage collection vehicles, and now intends to do the same with commercial waste services. “There are more than 1,000 businesses that will be impacted by this decision, yet there has been no consultation with them, the broader community, or workers. “Having an appointed administrator making major decisions on the eve of elections, including the awarding of multi-million dollar contracts and the sale of council assets, is completely unacceptable and is one of the reasons communities across the state fought so hard against these forced mergers. “Premier Berejiklian and Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton need to urgently intervene to stop the unelected administrator of Cumberland Council from selling assets, cutting services, or entering contracts, with all decisions instead held over until a democratically elected council retakes the reins,” Mr Kelly said. … and Woollahra wants its money back Waverley Councillor John Wakefield believes the administrator has engaged in building a castle-in-the-air and is keen to seek state government re-imbursement for the costs of the merger. “With the merger called off, we have certainty about the future of the eastern suburbs councils,” Cr Wakefield said. “Let’s now consider what the ratepayers of Waverley have paid to jump through the hoops of the State Government’s mega-merger fantasy.” While Woollahra Council and its Mayor led the opposition against the merger, Waverley Council and its Mayor went about setting up Waverley for the merger with Randwick and an unwilling Woollahra. According to Cr Wakefield, a team of Waverley staff has been working for two years on the merger. Consultants were hired to prepare detailed reports on management and staffing structures under a merged council, facilities and office accommodation requirements, vehicle and truck fleet management issues, maintenance contracts, IT systems integration, and numerous other complex issues requiring detailed plans. “We estimate that well over $500,000 was spent by Waverley Council in direct costs to consultants, while hundreds and hundreds of hours of senior council staff time was occupied in meetings, preparing reports, workshopping the incredible complexity of merging three large organisations together whilst attempting to maintain work levels and resident expectations of service delivery. “Simultaneously and additional to this, Waverley Council under Mayor Betts also hired consultants and allocated a significant amount of staff time on a proposal to re-develop Council’s Library and adjacent buildings. This has been marketed as the ‘Civic Heart’ precinct. It was actually a feasibility study to house a merged council’s town hall. “Mayor Betts was preparing to spend a significant amount of ratepayers money to house a now abandoned merged Eastern Suburbs Council,” he said. This Civic Heart project has an allocation of $80 million in Waverley Council’s forward budget but would have in reality cost in the order of $120 million. Combined with Mayor Betts’ grand project for the Bondi Pavilion with a budget of $40 million, this would have exhausted Waverley’s $130 million capital works reserve totally. “We will now be seeking re-imbursement from the State Government of all expenditure related to the merger proposal. “If our motion is successful, a more precise figure will be calculated by Council’s General Manager, but we estimate the total cost to ratepayers of over $2 million wasted in the last two years.” [post_title] => Council administrators: caretakers or career builders? [post_excerpt] => Standing for election, selling off assets... council administrators are in the firing line. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => council-administrators-caretakers-career-builders [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-04 11:09:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-04 01:09:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27748 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27724 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-28 02:16:20 [post_content] => It has now been a full 24 hours since the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that proposed council mergers before the courts will not proceed, and the original rejoicing and merriment in the streets is being replaced by anger and – well, more uncertainty. “Due to the protracted nature of current legal challenges and the uncertainty this is causing ratepayers, those council amalgamations currently before the courts will not proceed,” the announcement said. “We want to see councils focusing on delivering the best possible services and local infrastructure to their residents. That is why we are drawing a line under this issue today and ending the uncertainty,” the Premier said. The following proposed mergers will not proceed:
  • Burwood, City of Canada Bay and Strathfield Municipal councils
  • Hornsby Shire and Ku-ring-gai councils
  • Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove and City of Ryde councils
  • Mosman Municipal, North Sydney and Willoughby City councils
  • Randwick City, Waverley and Woollahra Municipal councils
Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton said it was important for local communities to have certainty in the lead up to the September local government elections. “The Government remains committed to reducing duplication, mismanagement and waste by councils so communities benefit from every dollar spent,” Ms Upton said. Naturally, most of the merged councils now want to explore de-merging, and the once who had put up a fight, want to recover their legal costs. And of course the Premier did not, and refuses to, guarantee that the mergers will not be attempted again past the elections. Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose MLC said: “The justification for forced mergers has been a political fix from day one. The Government must release the KPMG report and stop avoiding scrutiny. “Premier Gladys Berejiklian has failed to rule out forced council amalgamations beyond 2019. As well, the Government must release the secret $400,000 KPMG report used by the former Premier to justify the forced mergers.” NSW Labor is now demanding Premier Berejiklian allow communities in forcibly merged councils to hold referendums to choose whether or not to demerge. Not our fault: developers Whilst developer lobby group Urban Taskforce was keen on the amalgamations, it distanced itself from the NSW Government’s version. “The Urban Taskforce originally proposed a council reform that had a district structure for planning decisions and left local matters to local councils,” said Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson. “The NSW Government’s back down on their version of council reform means the scale of thinking about growth will now be local not regional. The value of larger councils was to move management and planning to a less local and more regional level but it seems the government’s processes were not legally tight and appeals have delayed the process leading to uncertainty for all. “The Urban Taskforce believes that the NSW Government must now play a much stronger role in driving housing supply with councils only focussing on local issues.” “The Urban Taskforce is concerned that today’s back down indicates a less reformist approach by the NSW Government than its previous position. This more cautious approach a year and a half before the next state election could put many important initiatives on hold.” Let’s have some stability The association of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW welcomed the government’s announcement on council amalgamations, bringing sector stability before September elections. “The uncertainty the amalgamations agenda have brought to the sector have been a huge resource drain on local councils and have distracted the sector from much needed reform to address sector innovation, misconduct in local government, cost shifting, rate pegging and professional development,” said general manager of Hunter’s Hill Council and president of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW Barry Smith. “We were engaged from the start of the reform process back in late 2011 where the entire local government sector came together to develop real solutions. Regrettably, the focus shifted toward amalgamations, and it is a shame it has taken six years for the State Government to allow all councils to get on with the job of delivering for their community.” The Independent Local Government Review Panel, which first proposed amalgamations, included 64 other recommendations to improve council performance. “Despite sector uncertainty, we have been committed to providing sector wide professional development opportunities, significant council improvement programs and support for councils going through amalgamations. “With this change in policy, we would welcome Minister Upton proactively re-engaging with the sector to ensure that real reform issues raised during the Destination 2036 discussions are dealt with. We must all refocus on supporting innovative council practices and solutions to improve performance, and address critical workforce shortfalls,” chief executive officer Annalisa Haskell said. Back to the courts Without exception, the councils that fought the merger are expected to put in a claim to recover their legal expenses. Additionally, many of the 20 merged councils will seek to de-merge or at least hold plebiscites. And the ones that wanted to merge? Hornsby Shire Council welcomed its proposed merger with Ku-ring-gai, which involved it ceding lucrative rate areas in Epping to Parramatta Council. Parramatta Council happily took these areas while Ku-ring-gai decided to fight, leaving Hornsby in the lurch. [post_title] => Councils: first the clarity, now for the confusion [post_excerpt] => While most councils are rejoicing, the future is still uncertain. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => councils-first-clarity-now-confusion [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-28 02:16:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27724 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27626 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 14:30:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 04:30:11 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27632" align="alignnone" width="296"] ALGA President Mayor David O'Loughlin.[/caption] Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president Mayor David O’Loughlin writes that while the corridor protection measures put forward by Infrastructure Australia are important and worthwhile, the Federal Government must also address first- and last-mile issues. Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) recent paper, Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term, outlines the case for securing and protecting land corridors for future infrastructure projects. They stress that a relatively modest investment today can pay substantial dividends tomorrow. ALGA has always strongly advocated for more integrated transport planning and so we support the report. However, it doesn't stress enough the importance of first and last mile issues we know enable freight to get to its destination, people to get to work, and raw materials to get to on-shore and off-shore markets. According to the National Transport Commission (NTC), road freight grew six-fold over the period 1971 to 2007. The freight task is projected to double by 2030 and treble by 2050. This growth is an indicator of the economic activity that we must begin to plan for today. We must ask ourselves:
  • What are the transport goals and what services are required to foster growth, jobs and prosperity?
  • Where are the investments required to achieve these goals?
Many councils are already answering these tough questions by investing in regional transport plans that identify key transport routes and linkages, and investment opportunities at the local and regional level. However, for this work, to have the impact required, to make productivity gains across the country, local government needs additional support from the Commonwealth. ALGA continues to call for a federal investment of $200 million per annum over five years to establish a Local Freight Productivity Investment Plan to partner with local councils and ensure that first mile/last mile and freight connectivity issues are addressed to improve national productivity. As well as road reform and additional funding requirements, road managers need to work in partnership with transport operators and other levels of government to provide roads and road services that are fit for purpose. A business-as-usual approach will not address this issue. As emphasised by IA, we must make the right infrastructure decisions today to accommodate and meet our growing freight task, increase productivity, create jobs and help create the transport infrastructure for the future prosperity of our nation. These are some of the key messages ALGA will include in its submission to the National Freight and Supply Chain Inquiry currently being undertaken by the federal government. Submissions are due by 28 July 2017 and I encourage all councils to join us and independently make a submission identifying their first and last mile freight priorities. The seven strategic corridors singled out by IA are: East Coast High Speed Rail, Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line. Further information, including the full report, is available on the Infrastructure Australia website. More information about the inquiry and how to make a submission is available on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website. The email address for submissions is freightstrategy@infrastructure.gov.au.   [post_title] => More action needed to protect vital infrastructure corridors [post_excerpt] => Mayor David O’Loughlin writes that first- and last-mile issues in freight must also be addressed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => action-needed-protect-vital-infrastructure-corridors [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-17 22:20:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:20:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27626 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27454 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-23 13:30:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-23 03:30:41 [post_content] => NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announcing the 2017 NSW Budget. Pic:YouTube.      NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has sprinkled some of his budgetary largesse on local councils and stumped up billions for infrastructure including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, bike paths and sports facilities and set up a new fund to kickstart a regional economic renaissance in the state. Mr Perrottet’s first budget was fuelled by a $4.5 billion surplus with coffers swollen from the NSW property boom and a major asset sell-off and local government will be more than pleased to rake in some of the spoils gained from stamp duty and the polls and wires sell off. For the Budget NSW overview click here. A new $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund has been established, focusing on lifting regional economic growth. There are six funds, including strands for infrastructure; sports facilities; improving voice and data connectivity; upgrades to parks, community centres and playgrounds and building and upgrading arts and cultural venues. Another strand also deals specifically with investing in infrastructure for mining communities. Councils, industry, regional organisations and community groups can apply to the funds, which tie in with the NSW government’s 30-year Regional Development Framework. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said the announcement was a positive one for the regions. "LGNSW looks forward to more information from the Deputy Premier's office on how this funding will be allocated and the opportunities for our sector, but overall this looks like very good news for regional communities. "This goes to show that the government does listen when the community speaks, and particularly so when they make their voice heard at the ballot box.” Central Coast Council Administrator, Ian Reynolds, said as he was particularly pleased with the promise to allocate 30 percent of infrastructure spending to the regions. “The $6 billion injection is significant and recognises that regions like the coast are attracting more people who are looking for a better lifestyle away from the big cities and require improved infrastructure to meet their growing needs,” Mr Reynolds. “Roads are a key priority for council because our community wants better roads and it is pleasing to see such a significant injection by the state government into roads here on the coast.” The regions also won another victory, with the government allocating $100 million for palliative care services and staff training, with much of this expected to flow to rural areas where there have been complaints about the dearth of services available. In addition, the government will spend $258 million on supporting and regulating local government through the Office of Local Government, including $2.1 million to optimise the Companion Animals Register and Pet Registry to improve user experience and enhance functionality. But it is not simply a one-way street with all give and no take. Local councils will feel the heat from Mr Perrottet’s push to accelerate house building in the state, including 30,000 new homes in priority precincts in Sydney. The NSW government will spend almost $70 million to speed up major development approvals and help councils rezone land quicker, including $19 million to establish a specialist team to rezone and to help councils accelerate rezonings. Also in the budget is $11.8 million for online, cloud-based housing development applications, especially to help regional councils and small metropolitan councils with low capability. Other key budget points
  • $4.2 billion over four years for education infrastructure, including building new schools and upgrading others
  • A cash injection of $7.7 billion over four years for new hospitals and hospital upgrades
  • Public transport, road building and rail gets $73 billion, including WestConnex, Sydney Metro City rail line and the Pacific Highway upgrade
  • Spending $20.1 million to complete the Service NSW network of service centres by transitioning 24 motor registries in regional and rural communities to Service NSW service centres.
  • Art Gallery of NSW expansion worth $244 million
  • A $1.2 billion package for first home buyers, including stamp duty relief and heavier foreign investor charges
  • $63.2 million to improve child protection, including additional caseworkers, case managers, and case support workers
[post_title] => NSW Budget: the impact on local councils [post_excerpt] => Win for the regions. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-budget-impact-local-councils [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-23 13:36:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-23 03:36:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27454 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27402 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-16 10:40:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-16 00:40:21 [post_content] => Hilltops Council is one of the NSW councils facing a bill for its merger. Pic: Facebook.   The NSW government has left some councils with hefty bills to pay since their forced amalgamations in May last year. Government News understands that mergers have ended up costing some NSW councils more than the state government merger and transition funding they were given. Rural and regional councils, in particular, are resentful because they received only half of what metropolitan councils were given to cover the process and yet they often receive much less from rates and have lower reserves. Rural and regional councils received $5 million for each merger, while metropolitan councils were handed $10 million for their mergers under the state government’s New Council Implementation Fund (NCIF). But there were caveats. The funding could only be used for certain things, such as getting expert advice and integrating IT systems, but not to pay ongoing staff costs or council administrators, who replace councillors and mayors until the local government elections in September. Councils were also given between $10 to $15 million of Stronger Communities funding to go towards community projects and infrastructure. Despite the funding, some councils are finding there is a reality gap. Hilltops Council, a merger between Boorowa, Harden and Young Councils in the South West Slopes of the state, estimates that it will end up spending $6.5 million on its merger, a shortfall of $1.5 million. Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said residents of the three former council areas would be ‘shaking their heads’ at the figures and wondering where the $1.5 million extra would come from. “Every independent expert said at the start of this process that amalgamations would be more expensive and more disruptive than the government pretended, and now we are seeing this come true,” Mr Shoebridge said. “The incompetence of the Coalition is really staggering, and now they are expecting residents in the local councils they have destroyed to meet the cost of their failure.” Hilltops General Manager Anthony McMahon said he did not understand the logic behind giving rural and regional councils significantly less funding to cover their merger costs than their metro counterparts. “In our case, we’ve been responsible for bringing three councils together that are geographically separated,” Mr McMahon said. “We’re also a water utility and we have additional constraints in relation to having two former councils with populations under 5,000, which means we have to comply with Section 218CA of the Local Government Act.  These factors are not a consideration for metro councils.” The council will finalise its transitional costs and then consider whether to lobby the state government for the money. “We’re focused on ensuring Hilltops Council is adequately resourced to complete the merger process, and will be making representations to Minister Upton accordingly,” Mr McMahon said. “We’ve made clear our determination in ensuring the community does not pay for merger-related costs.” But it is not only regional councils who have been left to pick up the tab for the mergers most of them fought hard against. Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council, an amalgam of Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils, received $10 million for its upfront merger costs and has only $105,000 left in the kitty. The council’s biggest outlays were $2.5 million for staff redundancies and $2.8 million for system integration. Northern Beaches Council acknowledges it faces further restructuring costs in the draft of its 2017-2018 Operational Plan. “It is recognised that council will incur further restructuring costs such as the cost of integration, aligning positions within the new organisational structure and new salary system which will exceed the funding provided,” says the plan. “Accordingly the Long Term Financial Plan has been prepared on the basis that once the NCIF has been fully utilised, existing budgets will firstly be used to pay for those merger and transition costs not funded through this mechanism prior to the identification of net savings.” Brian Halstead President of Save Our Councils Coalition, a community group against forced council mergers, said a funding shortfall had always been on the cards. “The amount that the government allowed was based on the KPMG report, which under costed amalgamations and because they’re not allowing councils to book the ongoing staff costs and administrators against the funding,” Mr Halstead said. He said some council staff were spending 25 per cent of their time managing the merger process, including harmonising service delivery and staff pay and conditions, and that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian should stump up the extra cash. “If I was a ratepayer, I would be thinking that these amalgamations have been forced on them by state government. It’s only reasonable that the state government bear the costs of amalgamation but I doubt any of the administrators will [ask] because they’re paid public servants.” Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Keith Rhoades said he was not surprised that merger costs had exceeded the funding available. “LGNSW, along with a number of academics and other experts, argued strongly throughout the process that there was a strong potential for additional costs,” Mr Rhoades said. “It was always clear that the cost of individual amalgamations would vary from council to council depending on readiness, systems compatibility, staff skills etc and in fact this is one reason why forced amalgamations can be more difficult than those that are achieved voluntarily, after extensive meaningful consultation.” Roberta Ryan, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney, said it was hard to predict the cost of mergers but the state government had given it their best shot at trying to work it out from past experience. She said the cost of mergers would depend partly upon the extent of co-operation between councils before they merged, for example through shared IT systems and services and the level of regulatory harmony in an area. “I understand there has been a shortfall for a number of councils,” Ms Ryan said. “Many regional and rural councils would have found it harder and more expensive because the amount [they were given] was less and some of them may not have been working towards some of these things that some of the metro councils were.” The ability of new councils to absorb any cost blowout was highly variable, she said. “Some councils have good reserves but some of the smaller ones are very strapped financially.” Asked when the true costs and savings from mergers would be known she said: “Not ever - as we don’t have the base line data available - there can be overall benefits and improvements - that may have happened even if the amalgamations didn’t happen.” The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) would not say whether any NSW councils had approached Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton to fund the shortfall or whether the government would act, should this occur. The DPC statement would only say: “The NSW Government has provided an unprecedented level of support to new local councils. “The NSW Government provided new councils with $375 million to implement the mergers and kick start investment in new services and infrastructure for their residents. “New councils in regional areas received $5 million to cover the costs of merging, as well as $10 million for a merger of two councils or $15 million for a merger of three councils, which is to be used for community, services and infrastructure projects.” [post_title] => NSW councils fork out for forced mergers as government funding dries up [post_excerpt] => Councils could petition Berejiklian for shortfall. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-councils-fork-forced-mergers-government-funding-dries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 14:53:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 04:53:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27402 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27309 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-06 11:07:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:07:45 [post_content] => Inner West Council meeting. Pic: Facebook. A NSW council has defended itself over criticism that it did not put a $9.4 million IT contract out to tender, saying it followed local government procurement rules and needs to urgently integrate its IT systems post-amalgamation. Inner West Council in Sydney has hired TechnologyOne to consolidate its IT systems following the forced amalgamation between Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils in May last year. Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils already used TechnologyOne but Ashfield used Civica International, TechnologyOne’s main industry rival. A council spokesperson said the decision not to go to open tender complied with Section 55(3)(i) of the Local Government Act 1993, which states “… because of extenuating circumstances, remoteness of locality or the unavailability of competitive or reliable tenderers, a council decides by resolution (which states the reasons for the decision) that a satisfactory result would not be achieved by inviting tenders”. Contracts over $150,000 normally go out to tender but the council is pleading ‘extenuating circumstances’, which it says includes: the council merger; the fact there are only two main industry service providers; the long-term benefits to the council and community and the urgency of integrating IT services across the new council after the merger, arguing that the tender process would ‘add a significant and unreasonable time delay’. The spokesperson said: “Two out of the three former councils already have Technology One licenses and use TechnologyOne products so we are simply continuing an existing relationship with this supplier. This decision was in the best financial and other interests of our residents. “TechnologyOne is an Australian based company and their superior technology will allow council to take a quantum leap forward in how we do business.” But Greens MP and Local Government spokesperson David Shoebridge isn’t buying it. “They’ve rushed headlong into a five-year contract on the basis that there was a desperate urgency,” Mr Shoebridge said. “It is remarkable that what started as a quick patch job has ended up with this almost permanent service provider.” He said Civica provided similar solutions to local government around Australia and would have been ready to respond quickly to an invite to tender to ensure the council got the best IT solution. “These assumptions are best tested through competitive tender process, that’s how you get value for money," Mr Shoebridge said. Meanwhile, Civica has asked why merged councils would sidestep the tender process without testing alternatives. A Civica spokesperson said the company disputed that a single supplier was the best path for councils to go down and said this could push out other vendors.  "We believe that councils want best-in-class solutions and sometimes that can be a mix of suppliers," the spokesperson said. "What was the harm in them going out to tender? We believe that they could have generated a better commercial outcome, even if they continued to go with that provider." Inner West Council’s $5 million IT contract includes integrating its IT and telephone network, external website and intranet and one-time ‘building costs’. A further $4.4 million will cover annual software licencing fees of $1.6 million over five years. TechnologyOne licencing fees will replace existing annual fees. [post_title] => Merged council says it followed procurement rules over $9m IT contract [post_excerpt] => Pleads ‘extenuating circumstances’ [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => merged-council-says-followed-procurement-rules-9m-contract [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 11:28:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:28:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27309 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27284 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-02 11:24:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:24:51 [post_content] =>   NSW councils tentative on housing affordability package Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ‘promising ideas’ in the state’s new housing affordability package but said the reforms were ‘somewhat light on detail’. The reforms include stamp duty concessions for first home buyers, changes to the first home buyer’s grant, higher taxes on foreign investors and accelerating council-led rezonings and development application approvals. "LGNSW congratulates the government on its efforts to do what it can to support housing affordability, and there's nothing we'd like more to do than to come out and praise their efforts,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said. "Unfortunately until there is more detailed information available it really seems to be a case of the devil will lie in the detail." Mr Rhoades said the sector welcomed many components of the package, including the ‘very positive’ move to lift the cap on development contributions to ensure new homes had the necessary infrastructure to support them, like footpaths, roads and parks. He also cautiously welcomed the announcement of funding of up to $2.5 million for ‘growth priority councils’ to help councils update their Local Environment Plans quicker. "It's great news that these ten to 15 councils will be supported to plan for future growth, but we are a little concerned at the suggestion that councils should accelerate the rezoning of land," Mr Rhoades said.  "Rezoning needs good strategic planning at a local level, and it's important that we don't give this up in the pursuit of speed at all costs.” He said it was unclear whether the government’s new guidelines around protecting the local character of communities would have much force. However, Mr Rhoades said councils were pleased the government had not moved straight to mandatory independent planning panels for deciding larger development applications. "These panels work very effectively for some councils, but other councils don't see the need for them - it really needs to be a matter of local choice.”   Digital marketplace for smart cities Local councils can now use the Digital Transformation Agency’s (DTA) Digital Marketplace platform to collaborate on smart city projects, including smart lighting, rubbish collection and infrastructure modelling. The new functionality, which is expected to become permanent, was introduced to help councils find suppliers for the innovative products and services they need to deliver smart city ideas. “There is a great appetite for innovation within local councils, who are at the forefront of smart city initiatives,” Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said. “Already 25 per cent of registered buyers on the Digital Marketplace are local government and there are more than 400 sellers who can provide the digital expertise they need to transform their communities.” There are already some exciting projects up on the Digital Marketplace, such as Sunshine Coast’s underground waste collection project and Ipswich Council’s 5D data modelling, which brings together streams of data to build a five-dimensional view of the city’s infrastructure. The Marketplace is supporting the federal government’s Smart Cities Plan and complements the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. Applications for the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program close on 30 June 2017.  Eight Sydney councils will offer residents free energy advice Eight Sydney councils will offer free energy advice to residents through the Our Energy Future partnership, going live on World Environment Day, Monday 5 June. Eight councils are working with Our Energy Future: Inner West, Bayside, City of Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown City, Georges River, City of Parramatta, Randwick City, and City of Sydney. Our Energy Future (formerly Our Solar Future) will involve an energy advice website, phone line and free, no-obligation quotes on solar and assessment services. Users can find information such as trusted solar and storage battery retailers and installers and tips on improving the energy efficiency of their homes and workplaces. For a discounted rate, Our Energy Future experts can also conduct comprehensive energy assessments to offer more tailored advice.   Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) President Councillor Sally Betts said she was excited about the launch. “We’re delighted that Our Energy Future and SSROC have been able to come together with eight councils to deliver financial savings to our local residents,” she said. Our Energy Future is coordinated by Positive Charge, a not-for-profit social enterprise. “Our organisation has its foundations in working with local government to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable and energy efficiency technologies,” said Manager Positive Charge Kate Nicolazzo. “We are thrilled to be partnering with SSROC to bring this award-winning service to Sydney-region residents,” she said. SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said, “Our Energy Future is a key element of SSROC’s Renewable Energy Master Plan, and will be run by Positive Charge for a 15-month pilot.” [post_title] => Around the councils: Digital Marketplace open for smart cities; Response to NSW housing reforms [post_excerpt] => And eight Sydney council's energy efficiency push. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => around-councils-digital-marketplace-open-smart-cities-response-nsw-housing-reforms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:32:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:32:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27284 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27268 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-31 13:04:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-31 03:04:03 [post_content] => NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has put the brakes on the controversial Fire and Emergency Services Levy (FESL), which could now be scrapped. The FESL was supposed to come in on July 1 to replace the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) but it sparked consternation from several quarters, including from local councils, property owners and unions. The government is now in the awkward position of having to reverse FESL legislation, which went through in March, to stall the scheme while it works out what to do next. The new levy would have meant several changes: first, it would be collected by local councils on the state government’s behalf alongside council rates, rather than by insurance companies; second, all property owners would pay the levy, including those whose property is uninsured. The government has repeatedly said that the ‘vast majority’ of property owners would be better off under the new levy, saving on average $47 per year, and that it would encourage more people to insure their properties. It said the levy was revenue neutral and fairer. But this figure has been disputed by the firefighters’ union, the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union of NSW (FBEU), using figures from the NSW Valuer-General and formulae contained in the FESL Bill. The union argued that property owners in some parts of Sydney, such as North Sydney, Mosman and the northern beaches, could end up paying more than double: up to $471 a year, compared with an annual average of $233 under the previous levy. The FBEU argued too that the proposal shifted the burden from businesses to homeowners with people living in low-risk homes subsidising those in bushfire-prone areas and high risk industries while halving the state’s contribution by around $70 million annually. Government News understands that some businesses had used the government’s online calculator and been shocked at how much extra they would have to pay under the new levy. Yesterday [Tuesday] Ms Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet blamed the government’s deferral on the negative impact it could have on small and medium-sized businesses and made no mention of homeowners. “While the new system produces fairer outcomes in the majority of cases, some people – particularly in the commercial and industrial sectors – are worse off by too much under the current model, and that is not what we intended,” Ms Berejiklian said. Mr Perrottet said the FESL was a complex reform and there would be challenges during the transition phase. “It’s not enough for this reform to work on paper – its real-life implementation has real life consequences for families and businesses, and we need to make sure they are not placed under unfair strain,” Mr Perrottet said. The government would not be drawn on whether the scheme would be scrapped or deferred. Ms Berejiklian said during a media conference yesterday: “If we don’t get a fairer system, we won’t introduce it. But our intent is to defer until we get a fairer system.” The government has said it will work with local government, fire and emergency services, the insurance industry and others to find a better and fairer path forward. Reaction News of the back down took many by surprise yesterday, cheering the firefighters’ union and local councils and aggravating insurance companies. The FBEU took it as proof the tax was ‘hopelessly wrong’ from the start. “They had six years, an inquiry and interstate precedent to get this right, and yet they completely stuffed it,” FBEU Secretary Leighton Drury said. “The FESL is a bad tax, and the wrong way to go. It doesn’t need further review and tinkering, it needs to be scrapped.” Mr Drury said there should be no levy and fire services to be funded from consolidated revenue, the same as police and other core public services. The Local Government NSW (LGNSW), the peak body for the state’s local councils, also welcomed the policy rethink. “Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s announcement that the government will not impose the FESL from July 1 provides an opportunity to pursue a true broad-based levy that replaces both the insurance and existing ratepayer contributions,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said. LGNSW said the FESL was based on the value of unimproved land value of property in NSW and recent land valuations would have meant ‘significant increases’ for many property owners. “Councils have already done a lot of work to comply with the government’s FESL legislation, and there will now be a need to undo this work – not to mention the associated costs. While this is regrettable, the chance to get the levy right should be our focus,” he said. Meanwhile the insurance industry reacted angrily to the news and said it would increase policy premiums for property owners. The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said insurance companies were ‘shocked and disappointed’ by the decision to delay the FESL, especially as no deadline had been set for a final decision. “This has significant legal and commercial implications for the industry. It is a logistical and technical challenge that will cause confusion and increase premiums for policyholders,” ICA spokesperson Campbell Fuller said. “The resumption of ESL collection will come with significant additional costs that the industry will be forced to pass on in full to policyholders.” He complained that ‘every other mainland state has abolished emergency services levies on insurance with little fuss’. Mr Fuller said insurers had already spent more than a year and tens of millions of dollars on consultants and IT changes to prepare for the new levy. The Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor, headed by Professor Allan Fels and his deputy David Cousins, had previously been tasked with being the ‘cop on the beat’ to ensure insurance companies removed the levy from policies and passed this on in full to homeowners and businesses.   The government has said it will now oversee ‘a smooth continuation of the existing system and ensure insurance companies collect only the amounts necessary to meet fire and emergency services funding requirements’. Penalties for any insurance company that does not heed this are steep: up to $10 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals. Both men had similar roles when Victoria did the same thing, following the 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission recommendations. [post_title] => Berejiklian could scrap new Fire and Emergency Services Levy [post_excerpt] => Councils and union happy, insurance companies not. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27268 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:33:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:33:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27268 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27216 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-25 05:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-24 19:00:00 [post_content] =>    Bendigo Council's Presentation and Assets Director Craig Lloyd with Clean Cube. Pic: supplied.    A solar waste compactor that functions with an ordinary household wheelie bin will be trialled by a Victorian council keen to increase bin capacity, cut costs and reduce the number of rubbish collections the council makes.  The City of Greater Bendigo Council is currently trialling Clean Cube, a smart waste compactor which runs on renewable solar energy and tells you when it is full. The Clean Cube was developed by Korean start-up company Ecube and it can hold a 120 or 240 litre bin.  Bendigo Council’s Australian supplier is Smart City Solutions. City of Greater Bendigo Presentation and Assets Director Craig Lloyd said it could help reduce the cost of waste collection. “By reducing the frequency of collections there is the potential to reduce the costs and labour associated with providing waste collection services to public areas by up to 80 per cent,” Mr Lloyd said. “It’s important to look at the new technology that exists to see if it’s viable for our community.” He said the Clean Cube used smart technology and multiple sensors to measure the bin’s fill level in real time. “The sensors trigger the automatic compaction of waste inside the bin and by doing this the capacity of the bin is increased by up to eight times meaning it doesn’t have to be emptied as often,” Mr Lloyd said. “However when it is full, the Clean Cube electronically notifies the city’s waste collection staff that it needs to be emptied.” Mr Lloyd said the compactor’s smart technology also included safety features that could detect sudden temperature rises, such as a fire in the bin.  Using the compactor bins at events would also reduce overflowing and litter. Ecube Labs’ online marketing manager, Matti Juutinen, told IoTAustralia in June last year that the cube can hold up to eight times more rubbish than traditional bins. “We are the only company in the industry to offer an ultrasonic fill-level sensor (with 10 years battery life) and a smart solar-powered waste compacting bin on a single real-time monitoring platform that generates optimised schedules and routes based on fill-level forecasting,” Mr Juutinen said. He said the compactor could go for two to three weeks without sunlight once fully charged. Charging it takes three to four days if there has been at least four hours of sunlight on each day. The Clean Cube is being trialled at Lake Weeroona, the city’s most popular recreation area, until June 13. [post_title] => Korean solar waste compactor could slash councils' rubbish collection costs [post_excerpt] => Victorian council trials Clean Cube. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => vic-council-trials-korean-solar-waste-compactor-slash-rubbish-collection-costs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-25 16:23:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-25 06:23:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27216 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27158 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 13:07:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 03:07:35 [post_content] =>   Fighting for deamalgamation: former Pittwater councillor Bob Grace. Pic: YouTube.   Residents are gearing up to push NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to deamalgamate NSW councils forcibly merged in May last year, galvanised by recent court successes of two councils opposing their mergers. Ku-ring-gai Council, on Sydney’s upper north shore, scored a victory against the NSW government in March when the Court of Appeal found it had been “denied procedural process” during its merger because delegate Garry West relied on a report from consultants KPMG, which contained financial modelling that the council could not access. The state government was ordered to pay the council’s costs and decided not to appeal the decision but Ms Berejiklian has made it clear she will not back down on the merger and her next move is uncertain. Rebel councils had another opportunity to celebrate after Woollahra Council was granted special leave to appeal against its forced merger with Randwick and Waverley in the High Court last week, reigniting the council’s hopes after a failed attempt to challenge the legality of its amalgamation in the Land and Environment Court in December last year. The Ku-ring-gai and Woollahra cases have helped inspire the recent formation of two residents’ groups, which are hoping to stop some mergers and deamalgamate others. Local Democracy Matters represents people opposed to the merger of Woollahra, Randwick and Waverley Councils, which is still on the cards. Protect Pittwater is pushing for the succession of Pittwater from the Northern Beaches Council, which emerged from the former Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils in May last year. Both groups are considering their options and legal challenges are likely. Protect Pittwater is also planning to submit a proposal to the NSW Local Government Minister to redefine council boundaries and reinstate Pittwater Council under the NSW Local Government Act but first the group must gather the signatures of 250 of the enrolled voters for the area; or 10 per cent, whichever is greater. Minister Gabrielle Upton, would then have to refer the proposal for examination and report to the Boundaries Commission or to the Departmental Chief Executive if the action was taken under Section 218E of the act, which deals with boundary alterations. This could kick off the whole delegate, public hearing process all over again. Bob Grace from Protect Pittwater, who served for three years on Warringah Council and 20 years on Pittwater Council, said the action was necessary to protect the area from high rises and dense development, similar to that already visited upon Manly and Dee Why. He said there would only be three councillors out of 15 on the Northern Beaches council after the September local government elections and Warringah would hold sway. “They’ve sold us out and I think everyone agrees with that. We will win this case if we go to court,” Mr Grace, a retired barrister, said. “There is really strong feeling up here. People in Pittwater are different. They don’t want a vibrant atmosphere like Manly and they don’t want high rise.” The group will crowdfund the money needed for legal fees. “Crowdfunding will enable the community to contribute and take action on their [own] behalf. They can get their council back if they want to contribute,” Mr Grace said. “People are realising that this Northern Beaches Council is all spin. Services are going down and staff are leaving.” Local Democracy Matters spokeperson Richard Horniblow said residents wanted to keep councils ‘genuinely local’ but some councils had not put up enough resistance to the government’s merger plans. “While Woollahra [Council] has been working hard to protect its residents from a forced amalgamation, we have seen too little too late from Randwick and dreadful complicity by the Liberal majority in Waverley,” Mr Horniblow said. “Our association has members from across the political spectrum who are coming together with one goal: to protect our right to genuinely local government that meets the needs of local residents.” NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said other councils where feelings still ran high could follow suit, for example Leichhardt, Gundagai and Tumbarumba.   “It is really heartening to see residents standing up so strongly for their councils and for their local democracy,” Mr Shoebridge said. “Residents in the east aren’t waiting for Waverley and Randwick Councils to come good and oppose the amalgamation but are now taking the state government to court themselves.” He said the Ku-ring-gai decision applied to all the government’s amalgamation proposals ‘on the face of it’ and this included Woollahra, Waverley and Randwick. Randwick Council agreed on Tuesday this week that it would mount a late legal challenge to its merger after two liberal councillors withdrew a rescission motion. Randwick Mayor Noel D’Souza said the council had received legal advice, which the council has said it will publish, which suggested it had grounds for appeal. “Randwick Council’s position has consistently been that we are financially viable and strong enough to stand alone,” Mr D’Souza said. “With the climate changing it’s prudent that we consider our options.” Merger court cases are still in progress for several hold-out councils, including Ku-ring-gai, Hunters Hill, North Sydney, Strathfield, Mosman, and Lane Cove. [post_title] => Residents clamour for NSW council deamalgamation after recent court wins [post_excerpt] => Randwick Council’s late legal challenge. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27158 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-19 10:52:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-19 00:52:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27158 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27122 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-16 10:00:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-16 00:00:36 [post_content] =>
  By Mark Say, Managing Editor UKAuthority.com This story first appeared in UKAuthority.com and appears here by kind permission of the author.    Rob Whiteman, chief executive of the UK's Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy talks about the financial challenge in spending on digital transformation – along with the integration of health and social care Pic: CIPFA Rob Whiteman spends a lot of time thinking about the financial dilemmas facing local government, and there is a major one around digital transformation. Almost everyone agrees it is a necessity, but it comes with a big price tag, and with councils’ budgets already cut to the bone it is a tough call to make a case for heavy investment on which the return is likely to be years away. As chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA), Whiteman has a day-to-day preoccupation with local authorities’ bottom line. It is not a direct responsibility, but as the professional body for officials at the sharp end it plays a significant part in honing the thinking. He recites the basics of local government’s current difficulties: spending down by approximately 40% since 2010, demands on social care that have led to a 5% increase for children’s services and a 10% limit on the cuts for adults, and much sharper reductions in areas such as regulatory services and running libraries.

Creating space

“The problem is that creating the space and investment for digital transformation is difficult when you don’t have the money to keep the show on the road today,” he says. “Everybody can see that, particularly with Generations X and Y, people want to access services in a different way. They want 24/7 services and want to be able to transact on the web. “That needs investment, and local government has many strengths, but it’s hard for it to make system investment when it’s more than 400 organisations. You need an organisation like DCLG (the Department for Communities and Local Government) to be able to pump prime. “If local government were not 400 institutions it could probably not have borne the cuts it has, but if you want to invest in something different, while the bigger authorities can find the space to do this, it’s very difficult for a small council with big budget constraints. Ideally it should mean working with other authorities to invest in it together.” The joint investment is not happening on any large scale and, since the Government Spending Review of 2015 provided nothing to support local digital efforts, there is no pump priming from the centre. There are organisations such as CIPFA, the Local Government Association and public sector IT association Socitm to support some coordination and shared effort. Whiteman says they can provide help, not just in arguing the case for local authorities but in challenging how they do things, pressing for more economies of scale and to avoid duplication. But councils still have to spend on investment, and Whiteman provides some advice on how they can make the process more manageable.

Look for good practice

“Number one, somebody has almost certainly already done it,” he says. “Actively go out and look for good practice and find councils that have already done something you’re thinking of doing. “Secondly, if you’re going to do it, do it well, and make sure you have the right capability. The best business cases are those that may cost a bit more than people are comfortable with but give greater assurance they will be delivered because you have the capability and capacity to deliver them well. “And try to do it with other people. Find other councils to work with, or partners that have already done something like this.” He emphasises the importance of being very clear over the expected benefits – “the more work on benefits realisation the better” – and the linking of digital and service strategies. But he suggests that councils will struggle if they do not take a more collective approach. “I think local government is good at implementation; it has been able to make 40% cuts because it has implementation skills. The weakness is that implementation tends to be for individual organisations rather than at scale, and if it were done at scale the benefits realisation probably could have been ever greater.”

STP ups and downs

Things get even more demanding when you look at the need for integrating services. The Government has made this a big issue for health and social care with the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for England, a move for which he sees up and down sides. On the one hand, he describes them as “a really difficult brand”, not helped by many having been drawn up with little or no public consultation; on the other, they could foster a better working relationship between councils and the NHS. They have different skills sets and financial settlements, with councils being accountable to local electorates while NHS bodies report to the secretary of state for health. This fosters different outlooks, but “these are so different that if they work well with each other the prize can be enormous”. He says the test will be in whether they develop the right attitude to working together: “I think STPS should be organisations where they want to work with each other and don’t feel they are being strong armed. They are an organisational development exercise to build trust for people to get used to transacting with each other. “The test of the good ones will be that, after they are abolished, people will want to carry on working that way because they have been successful.”

Sense of place

This will depend partly on how strongly the participants feel a sense of common purpose based on their communities – a “sense of place” as Whiteman puts it – and a willingness to break out of their organisational silos. This is not easy to achieve, as the breakdown of the Total Place policy in the late 2000s demonstrates. But he is hopeful that the move to city devolution, with Manchester at the vanguard, will provide momentum. “My experience is that a sense of place can act as the biggest drive for collaboration of anything that I’ve seen. What I admire about Manchester is that there’s a sense of place, in that people think they are not supporting the public interest as they should if they stick by the present organisational boundaries and siloes. “A sense of understanding the issues of a community and feeling a passion to do something about it is the most powerful.” His other big hope in the technology field is that government makes more of data analytics. He says it could be valuable to local government in plenty of activities, especially social care and public health. “That type of capability has incredible opportunity in other policy areas - identifying children likely to be at risk, people who are likely to be vulnerable, people who are likely to have poor health. There are very real information management and ethical issues about the degree to which the state makes use of data, and we are going to have to work that through with other policy areas, but data analytics could inform on a whole range of policy issues.” Through all this Whiteman conveys a combination of acknowledging the starkness of the financial situation facing local government, and an optimism that it has the qualities to find some long term solutions. There is no doubt that digital is going to play a big part.  
[post_title] => Facing local government’s digital dilemma [post_excerpt] => Tough spending choices for UK local councils. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27122 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-16 10:00:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-16 00:00:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27122 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27098 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 10:42:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 00:42:57 [post_content] =>   Treasurer Scott Morrison delivers some welcome relief to local councils in his 2017 Budget speech.    Treasurer Scott Morrison has given Australia’s local councils a boost by unfreezing the indexation of federal financial assistance grants (FAGs) from July 1 and extending funding for local roads. The Abbott government decreed an indexation freeze of the grants in its 2014 Budget, much to the horror of councils, who saw inflation eat away at their bank balances. The government’s estimates indicate that the measure cost councils more than $600 million in lost income. FAGs are vital to councils, particularly regional and rural councils who tend to have a lower rates’ base and fewer revenue raising options, because they are not ring fenced and can be spent on community priorities such as parks, pools, roads and libraries. But councils are counting the cost of the three-year freeze at the same time, arguing that it has permanently reduced the grants and damaged local government’s ability to maintain community infrastructure, roads and services. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said the freeze had had a “harsh impact” on NSW councils, which were also dealing with rate capping and cost-shifting from other levels of government. Mr Rhoades estimated that it had cost NSW councils up to $300 million in lost funding over this period. “Unfortunately despite this welcome restoration, the freeze has resulted in a permanent base reduction of around 13 per cent.” Mr Rhoades said. “It is exactly these sort of financial constraints that make it almost impossible for councils to get ahead. “The significant financial losses sustained as a result of the FAGs indexation freeze cannot help but impact on the quality of local services and infrastructure councils currently provide.” Municipal Association of Victoria President Mary Lalios agreed that ending the freeze was good news for local government. “This will be good news for councils, particularly councils in rural areas as their communities have been hurting as a result of the lost funding,” Ms Lalios said. “The grants help councils to meet the costs of providing more than 100 essential services to local communities and maintaining $80 billion worth of community infrastructure. “However, councils will still be left playing catch-up as they recover from the $200 million that has been lost since the freeze began.” Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) President Mark Jamieson called the decision a “welcome relief” to the state’s councils. “Returning indexation to these grants has been an advocacy priority for the LGAQ and the Australian Local Government Association since the freeze on indexation in 2014. “We welcome the common sense decision by the government to return this vital funding to Queensland councils who now have some certainty in their ability to plan and invest in important infrastructure and projects in their communities”. Mr Jamieson said. Vice President of the Australian Local Government Association, Damien Ryan said councils could now begin to pick up the pieces. “Financial Assistance Grants are an important untied payment that councils invest in providing better infrastructure and better services for our local communities,” he said. “By restoring indexation to this important payment, the government is honouring its commitment to communities to ensure that, as far as possible, every citizen regardless of where they live can have equitable access to municipal services. “However, there is still a long road ahead before councils recover from the freeze as it permanently reduced the base level of the Financial Assistance Grants payments.” Local Government Association of South Australia’s Executive Director of Public Affairs, Lisa Teburea, said the freeze had cost the state’s councils 36 million over the past three years and wiped 13 per cent off the total value of the fund. “These grants are particularly valuable as they are un-tied, meaning councils can use this funding to provide the facilities and services most needed by their ratepayers,” Ms Teburea said. “The government’s decision to freeze indexation on FAGs in its 2014/15 budget has had a significant impact on South Australian councils, with regional communities – where the grants make up a higher proportion of councils’ total revenue – the hardest hit.” Roads  A further budget bonus for Australia’s local councils has been a two-year extension of federal government’s Roads to Recovery funding beyond the 2018-19 cut-off date. The fund is directed at local councils and is earmarked for maintaining and upgrading local roads.  It was introduced in 2000 to address the growing maintenance backlog. “Roads to Recovery provides much-needed funding to help councils maintain 85 per cent of Victoria’s road network, to achieve better safety, economic and social outcomes for their communities,” Ms Lalios said. Program funding is $700 million for 2017/18, $364.5 million in 2018/19, and increases to just below $400 million in 2019/20 in line with the government promise to boost funding for this program by $50 million per annum from 2019/20. Mr Rhoades said the funding extension was “very welcome recognition of the dire state of many roads across the nation” but added “it is important to note the delay before the additional funding kicks in, as well as the fact that the funding boost is spread nationally”. “It’s sobering to think that even if the entire $50 million for R2R was invested in NSW, it would still be insufficient to bring thousands of kilometres of particularly country roads up to the standard our communities need and deserve.” South Australia will receive supplementary road funding of $40 million over two years, after having this pulled in 2014-15. Ms Teburea called this “another significant win” for South Australian communities. “South Australian councils manage 11 percent (75,000km) of the nation’s local road network, have over 7 percent of the nation’s population, and yet receive only 5.5 percent of Identified Local Roads Grant funding,” Ms Teburea said. “This was rectified in 2004/05, through an annual ‘top-up” supplementary payment of around $18 million per annum to South Australia.  However, this payment was removed in 2014/15. “Over the past three years we’ve continued to advocate for the return of this payment, and we appreciate the federal government restoring fair and equitable road funding to South Australian councils in this year’s Budget.”   [post_title] => ScoMo’s Budget boost for local councils [post_excerpt] => Financial assistance grants unfrozen. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => scomos-budget-boost-local-councils [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 10:44:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 00:44:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27098 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27076 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-08 15:52:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-08 05:52:04 [post_content] =>   Public servants and local councils are hoping Treasurer Scott Morrison's 'good news' Budget really is. Pic: YouTube.     Housing affordability, a staged unfreezing of the Medicare rebate, infrastructure spending and Gonski 2.0 are all widely tipped to feature prominently in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s “good news” Budget tomorrow. Other likely announcements include a one-pay payment for pensioners to offset electricity price increases, funding for veterans’ mental health programs and dumping billions of dollars worth of education and health ‘zombie’ cuts. Meanwhile, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has already called Mr Morrison's Budget a “pale imitation of Labor policy” and said it is merely an attempt to save Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership by “trying to close down issues”, while warning Catholic schools will stage a rebellion against their recalculated, lower funding. “It is designed to save Malcolm Turnbull's leadership, desperate to get a positive Newspoll,” Mr Bowen told Barrie Cassidy on Insiders yesterday. “These half measures: one step forward, two step back, coming down the road towards Labor policy is [not] going to fool anybody. Of course, the fact Labor's led the policy agenda on health, education and housing affordability means the government is playing catch-up. “Whenever someone is playing catch-up with you, that’s better than not catching up with you, but they are still a long way behind on these policies.” But aside from the politics, what impact will the Budget have on local government and where will the inevitable spending cuts to fund the goodies come from? Local government wish list The biggest, most pressing issue for local government is the fervent hope that the federal government will finally end the freeze on the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants  (FAGs) to councils, a decision which Joe Hockey deferred for another three years in his horror 2014 Budget. Regional and rural councils have borne the brunt of this measure, since they are much more dependent on FAGs for their general funding than metro areas due to their weaker rates’ base. In April, the peak body for the nation’s local councils, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), mounted a social media campaign pressing the government to end the FAGs freeze, while pressing the government to increase the quantum of FAGs in proportion to Commonwealth tax revenue. In 1996 FAGs were equal to about 1 per cent of Commonwealth tax revenue; by 2013-14 FAGs amounted to around 0.67 per cent of total. A growing infrastructure maintenance backlog, particularly in NSW, has seen ALGA request that the Roads to Recovery program should be permanently doubled, the Bridges Renewal program made permanent and Fairer Roads Funding restored for South Australia, at $17.5 million per annum. The Association’s federal Budget submission also asked for $300 million a year over the next four years to fund community infrastructure which it said would stimulate long-term growth and build community resilience. Disaster funding and support to address climate change is also a priority for those councils in flood prone areas. ALGA has asked for a disaster mitigation program to be established funded at $200 million per year and an investment of $100 million over four years to support councils to manage their own climate risks. The Association also asked that the government to review municipal funding for services around indigenous housing, health, jobs and education. ALGA President David O’Loughlin said it was “an ideal time to invest in roads and bridges, community infrastructure and guarding against the world impacts of climate change” as well as the time “to start the discussion about the reality of the current funding constraints experienced by councils”. “ALGA understands the fiscal challenges facing the Commonwealth, however, expenditure on priorities does not wait for a convenient moment,” Mr O’Loughlin said. “Indeed, ALGA would argue that in times of fiscal constraint governments should focus on community priorities and investment in productive infrastructure through the most efficient processes to deliver programs.” Specific items expected in the Budget include a $2.3 billion state-federal package for Western Australia to pay for freeways, regional roads and the Metronet rail project; motorway upgrades for South East Queensland and progress on the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, alongside $6 billion for a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. There is also likely to be an announcement of a further roll-out of City Deals, which focus on new infrastructure to help regional areas around urban centres. It will be fascinating to discover is there is any mention of the National Party-led push to decentralise government jobs, typified by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority’s move from Canberra to  Armidale, in tomorrow's Budget. The cuts One cut that has already been foreshadowed is reduced Commonwealth funding for universities, tighter rules around HECS repayments and a 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend that universities must meet. There may also be a series of smaller health programs that may be slashed or abandoned. Meanwhile, the Community and Public Sector Union is stealing itself for yet another round of public service job cuts, predicting that a further 4500 jobs could be slashed “if the government maintains its hard-line cuts” and adds to the 18,000 scalps it has already claimed. Instead the union is asking the government to target its money saving efforts at consultants and contractors and company tax avoidance and restore ATO jobs to prosecute this drive. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said the relative silence before the Budget had been “strange and a tad unsettling” for government workers. “Treasurer Scott Morrison and the government in general have said much less about the national accounts than they normally would,” Ms Flood said. “That silence hasn't exactly been reassuring for the public servants who keep the wheels of government turning. This government has repeatedly used them as a political football while also making harsh and short-sighted cuts. “Let's hope the government puts ordinary Australians first with this budget, rather than shooting itself in the foot with another round of counter-productive public sector cuts.” We’ll have to wait and see. [post_title] => Budget 2017: Implications for local councils [post_excerpt] => Union fears further public sector job cuts.   [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27076 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-09 11:48:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-09 01:48:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27076 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27804 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-10 09:12:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-09 23:12:50 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27806" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo courtesy of SBS.[/caption] Cristy Clark, Southern Cross University The New South Wales state government has passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city. In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:
"… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law."
As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.
Further reading: Ban on sleeping rough does nothing to fix the problems of homelessness

Real problem is lack of affordable housing

In contrast to her Melbourne counterpart, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had been adopting a more human-rights-based approach to resolving the challenges presented by the Martin Place camp. After negotiating with camp organisers, Moore made it clear her council would not disperse the camp until permanent housing was found for all of the residents. As she pointed out:
"You can’t solve homelessness without housing — what we urgently need is more affordable housing and we urgently need the New South Wales government to step up and do their bit."
It’s no secret that housing affordability in both Sydney and Melbourne has reached crisis point. And homelessness is an inevitable consequence of this. But we have seen little real action from government to resolve these issues. The NSW government has been offering people temporary crisis accommodation or accommodation on the outskirts of the city. This leaves them isolated from community and without access to services. In contrast, these inner-city camps don’t just provide shelter, food, safety and community; they also send a powerful political message to government that it must act to resolve the housing affordability crisis. Having established well-defined rules of conduct, a pool of shared resources and access to free shelter and food, the Martin Place camp can be seen as part of the commons movement. This movement seeks to create alternative models of social organisation to challenge the prevailing market-centric approaches imposed by neoliberalism and to reclaim the Right to the City.
Further reading: Suburbanising the centre: the government’s anti-urban agenda for Sydney

We should be uncomfortable

It is not surprising that right-wing pundits have described these camps as “eyesores” or that they make NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian “completely uncomfortable”. The breach of human rights these camps represent, and the challenge they pose to the current system, should make people uncomfortable. Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has very limited legal protections for human rights. In this context, actions like the Martin Place and Flinders Street camps are one of the few options available to victims of systemic injustice to exercise their democratic right to hold government to account. In seeking to sweep this issue under the carpet, both the City of Melbourne and the NSW government are not only further breaching the right to adequate housing, they are also trying to silence political protest. It is clear from Moore’s demands, and the NSW government’s own actions, that the Martin Place camp is working to create pressure for action. What will motivate the government to resolve this crisis once the camps have been dispersed? As Nelson Mandela argued in 1991 at the ANC’s Bill of Rights Conference:
"A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care, is to use first-generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socioeconomic inequality is entrenched. "We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society."
Mandela’s words were hugely relevant to apartheid South Africa, where a ruling elite had established a deeply racist and unjust system that linked political disenfranchisement and material deprivation. But they also resonate today in Australia where inequality is on the rise – driven in large part by disparities in property ownership. The ConversationHomelessness is a deeply dehumanising force that strips people of access to fundamental rights. The policies that are creating this crisis must be seen as unacceptable breaches of human rights. We need to start asking whether our current economic system is compatible with a truly democratic society. Cristy Clark, Lecturer in Law, Southern Cross University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Clearing homeless camps will make the problem worse [post_excerpt] => "You can’t solve homelessness without housing." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => clearing-homeless-camps-will-make-problem-worse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:22:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:22:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27804 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 520 [max_num_pages] => 38 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => 1 [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => d097e2503cfd6d0e4cbb8813f1c737c4 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

local-government

local-government