Warnings about the financial struggles facing small rural councils should trouble us all.
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Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) President Mary Lalios gave a gloomy but accurate assessment of smaller councils’ inability to deal with lower levels of Commonwealth funding and a 2 per cent cap on rate increases. Similar concerns have arisen in my home state of South Australia, where the Liberal Opposition Party has said it will peg council rates if it wins government at the state election due next March. NSW councils have laboured under rate capping since 1978, and last November were told by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (which sets the allowable rate increase) that they could increase their rates for the next financial year by no more than 1.5 per cent. IPART said the 1.5 per cent figure was fair given low inflation and slow wage growth. But as my colleague Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said at the time, IPART’s conclusions ignored the 1.8 per cent increase in CPI, the equivalent increase in employment benefits and non-residential building costs greater than 1.5 per cent. And he pointed out, rightly in my view, that the rage peg was “a financial noose which continued to tighten” around councils and local communities. Yet surely it would be a brave observer who concluded that the Sydney market would be overly sensitive to rate rises when the same market is still growing despite the largest increase in property costs and rents in Australia in recent years. Yet there's no sign of an IPART equivalent seeking to intervene on rents or property prices. Consider this: Sydney councils have been rate-pegged for the longest duration in the nation, and many of them now impose the highest developer charges in the nation for new homes. The Sydney market has the longest running housing supply shortfall and, as a direct consequence, the highest average rents in the nation. Perhaps it's just me, but in my mind, these factors are intrinsically linked. What is wrong with Councils determining their own level of rates? After all, as the recent NSW council elections demonstrated, we are ultimately accountable to our voters, and if we get the balance wrong we risk being thrown out of office. It's a proven mechanism – it's called democracy. Meanwhile, the well-intentioned but unelected IPART need never worry about facing the voters about the short and long-term impacts of rate pegging. This week Cr Lalios told the Victorian Parliament that capital spending in small rural shires would decline by 30 per cent from 2016-20, with the three-year freeze in Financial Assistance Grants, the cancellation of the Country Roads and Bridges Program in 2105, and the two per cent rate cap contributing substantially to that reduction. The immediate consequences of rate capping, particularly for councils with limited access to other revenue like parking fees, fines and charges, are an increase in debt levels, a drop in service levels, or a combination of both. Over the longer term, however, that’s unsustainable. The Commonwealth’s “efficiency dividends’’ show year-on-year budget cuts imposed on departments and agencies inevitably lead to reduced or cancelled public services. Why would Local Government be any different? Councils have the narrowest revenue base of the three levels of government, yet the heaviest roads and infrastructure burden. Rate caps are the financial equivalent of a ball and chain. And it is ratepayers and local businesses who are hit hardest by truncated services, deteriorating infrastructure, and a lack of capacity to innovate and respond to emerging community needs. Councils are already attempting to offset the double whammy of rate caps and lower Commonwealth funding by using collaborative procurement, improved asset management, and by developing cost-sharing partnerships and other options – but this may not be enough to change the fundamentals. As I advocate for a return to sustainable federal funding, I am drawing a clear link to the call for an end to rates caps in favour of local decision-making. I make it clear that for every dollar councils are unable to raise locally, they will be looking for it elsewhere – with the Commonwealth a primary target. Mayor David O’Loughlin is the president of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA). [post_title] => Small councils to go hungry [post_excerpt] => Warnings about the financial struggles facing small rural councils should trouble us all. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => small-councils-go-hungry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-19 09:33:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-18 23:33:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://governmentnews.com.au/?p=28061 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28024 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-09-15 10:58:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-15 00:58:57 [post_content] => Lake Macquarie City Council is moving to a new consolidated tender to maintain its facilities, which will streamline and improve the process while promising to give service providers clearer guidelines and increased contract security. The council owns and manages about 400 buildings, facilities and natural assets, many of which are cleaned, maintained, and in some cases operated, by commercial contractors. The services provided include electrical and other trades, building maintenance, minor construction, data cabling, vegetation and pest management, waste management, cleaning and other specialist services. Under the new system, opportunities to provide these services will be advertised under a single tender, Facilities Management Services (T1009), comprising 52 separate services within eight Service Supply Panels. Providers will be able to register online through Tenderlink to submit a tender. “Council has a diverse range of contractors, and opportunities will continue to exist for suitably qualified and experienced service providers at all levels, from sole traders to large companies,” works coordinator Daron Kerr said. “Service providers will be able to tender for one, multiple or all services, and some services may be awarded to more than a single tenderer. “Lake Macquarie City Council is committed to supporting business across our City and region, and we encourage local businesses to consider participating in this tender process.” Successful tenderers will be awarded contracts of three years, with two one-year options. This will offer the council’s service providers greater security and assist with their business planning. The centralised tender will bring consistency to the council’s arrangements with contractors and improve safety, compliance and efficiency through the introduction of a performance management system. All services currently provided by commercial suppliers will be included within the new tender. Services provided by council staff will continue to be delivered within the organisation. [post_title] => LMCC introduces consolidated tender [post_excerpt] => Lake Macquarie City Council is moving to a new consolidated tender to maintain its facilities. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => lmcc-introduces-consolidated-tender [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-15 11:33:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-15 01:33:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://governmentnews.com.au/?p=28024 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28007 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-09-12 10:13:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-12 00:13:13 [post_content] => Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) and Veolia Australia and New Zealand have opened the Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) facility at Woodlawn Eco-precinct in the town of Tarago, located 240 kilometres from Sydney, NSW. Previously, the town of Tarago was home to the adjoining Woodlawn Mine site drilling for zinc, copper, lead, gold and silver. For SSROC and its member councils this has been an almost 10-year journey from the initial concept to the delivery of a $100 million state-of-the-art MBT facility that in this financial year alone will save the six councils more than $9.5 million collectively. President of the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) Inc., Cr Sally Betts said: “For SSROC and our councils, reducing the impact of our household waste is a priority, with Sydney-siders responsible for generating around 2,000 kg of waste per person. The new MBT facility is a cost effective and sustainable way of reducing the quantity of waste that ends up in landfill.” The Woodlawn MBT facility will use cutting-edge resource recovery technology to produce compost to rehabilitate an on-site mine. Household municipal waste will be rotated in large drums along with air and water to separate compostable material from inorganic, recovering recyclables such as metals along the way. This process will divert 55% of household waste from landfill, transforming residual waste into clean heat for the on-site barramundi farm and green energy for the grid. General manager of SSROC Namoi Dougall recognised the dedication of SSROC member councils to delivering value for money and sustainable solutions to their residents: “In NSW, our councils are paying a levy of $138 per tonne of municipal waste, so by diverting more than half of our waste from landfill we are estimating that the six participating councils will be saving ratepayers $9.5 million in the first year alone. It is a sign of the dedication and foresight of our councils, that we have worked to establish this project for nearly 10 years. This is a positive step in the way we process waste, and I look forward to the MBTs evolution over the coming years.” The SSROC region is host to a newly established Veolia waste transfer terminal at Banksmeadow, which will transport containerised waste by rail to the new Woodlawn MBT facility. The use of rail, including the existing Clyde site, to transfer the waste will result in a reduction by around 30,000 heavy truck movements on Sydney’s already congested roads. Veolia’s executive general manager - Eastern Region Danny Conlon said: “The facility will process 144,000T of waste per annum and will divert more than half of participating councils’ general waste tonnes away from landfill. Ten years of collaboration amongst a number of stakeholders, inclusive of SSROC, NSROC, state government and community members have led us to this end-result, and this partnership will enable Veolia to make a positive impact on the NSW Government’s diversion target of 70 per cent by 2021. This project will also save millions of dollars in waste levy charges for Sydney’s ratepayers and will additionally produce an organic compost to be used to rehabilitate Australian mining land, ultimately allowing us to give back to the nation’s people and communities.” The collaboration with Veolia has generated over 50 jobs have between the Banksmeadow and Woodlawn facilities. [post_title] => Sydney councils adopt new waste management technology [post_excerpt] => SSROC and Veolia ANZ have opened an advanced Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) facility. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sydney-councils-adopt-new-waste-management-technology [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-15 11:35:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-15 01:35:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://governmentnews.com.au/?p=28007 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27998 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-09-11 14:15:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-11 04:15:30 [post_content] => People Matter is an employee perception survey conducted by the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Local Government (UTS CLG). It is regularly conducted across state government public sectors and provides important information and insights for departments, organisations and sector stakeholders on workplace experiences and employee engagement. Local government makes up almost 10% of the total public sector workforce in Australia. This research utilises a tailored version People Matter survey tool to gain feedback on employee experiences and perceptions of working in the local government sector. Approximately 1,500 NSW local government employees responded to the anonymous survey from an estimated fifteen local government areas between December 2016 and April 2017. Research findings include the following from the local government employees who responded to the survey:
- There is a strong understanding of what is expected from them of in terms of their role (86%) and respondents are highly enthusiastic when it comes to look for ways to perform their job better (95%). Employees who responded have a strong appreciation (87%) of how their position contributes to positive outcomes for their council and community.
- While wellbeing is mostly perceived positively, unacceptable workloads (19%) and detrimental work stress (15%) is reported. A third of the respondents rate work-life balance as less than good.
- There are positive perceptions of how their immediate workgroup or team works together (70%). There are some negative perceptions (14%) when it comes to rating ‘team spirit’.
- In terms of performance and development, employees who responded are able to have open and honest conversation with their supervisors about the quality of work required (70%), although a proportion (39%) do not have a current performance plan that sets out objectives. There is a strong desire for career advancement (65%); however, there is dissatisfaction with opportunities for career progression or the merit system within their organisation (30%). Managing underperformance was one area that a significant proportion of respondents perceived in a negative light (27%).
- There are mostly positive perceptions of managers with many managers being seen to encourage employee input (73%). However, a smaller number of managers are seen to consider this input when making decisions in the organisation (58%). Less than half of the respondents have positive perceptions of council senior managers. Demonstrating collaboration and leading change are perceived as being areas for improvement for senior executive teams.
- Council organisations are rated well when it comes to understanding and building relationships with communities (79%). Whilst a large proportion of the respondents agree that councils are making the necessary improvements to meet challenges of the future (65%), a quarter perceives that change is not handled well. Most of the employees who responded (67%) would recommend their organisation as a great place to work.
- The majority of respondents (85%) can see how diversity and inclusion in the workplace contributes to better business outcomes and feel able to voice different views to their managers and colleagues (70%). Gender and age are seen as a barrier to success within some of the respondents’ council organisations (8%-12%).
- The policy will only apply to residential flat buildings and shop top housing developments within the R4 High Density Residential, R1 General Residential or B4 Mixed Use zone;
- The bonus floor space ratio will be available if the development includes a minimum of 50 dwellings (excluding ‘transitional group home dwellings’);
- The bonus floor space shall not exceed 10 per cent of the maximum floor space ratio permitted on the site, up to a maximum of 900m2 gross floor area (capped regardless of the site area);
- An additional 300m2 of gross floor area would be available for every ‘transitional group home’ provided, which would allow for two bonus dwellings (each with an average internal floor area of no less than 100m2 gross floor area) comprising:
- One ‘transitional group home’ (to be used as a group home (subject to agreement with a suitable provider/s) and then returned to the developer after a period of use - potentially 10 years); and
- Two standard dwellings above the yield otherwise achievable by the developer;
- The maximum additional yield achievable within the bonus floor space will be nine dwellings (of which three would need to be a ‘transitional group home’);
- The timing of the developer’s incentive is staged:
- Upfront: two bonus (unrestricted) dwellings; and
- After 10 years: one bonus dwelling (when use as a transitional dwelling has ceased).
"… 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 housingIn 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 uncomfortableIt 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. Homelessness 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] => https://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27804 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27754 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-03 18:55:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-03 08:55:38 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27755" align="alignnone" width="287"]
Cr Jennifer Alden, Craig Lloyd and Cr Andrea Metcalf (L-R).[/caption] Recent audits of local waste and recycling bins have shown that Greater Bendigo residents are still sending significant amounts of recyclables straight to landfill by placing many items that could be recycled into their waste bins. In an effort to improve recycling rates, the City of Greater Bendigo has launched a new community education Sort it out before you throw it out! advertising campaign. The campaign will provide useful information about the items that residents are currently not recycling to make them aware that they can. It will utilise television, radio, print, social media and signage to encourage residents to think about and improve the way they sort their waste, organics and recycling. City of Greater Bendigo Presentation and Assets director Craig Lloyd said the City’s recent waste bin audits showed that 40% of the contents of local waste bins should have been placed in the recycling bin while 22 per cent could have gone in the organics bin. “The audit is backed up by State Government figures that place Greater Bendigo in the bottom 50 per cent of Victoria’s 79 local government areas for waste resource recovery,” said Mr Lloyd. “Unfortunately, many Greater Bendigo residents are still placing recyclables such as paper and cardboard, glass bottles and jars, cans, plastics and organic garden and food waste in their red lid waste bin. “Objects that can be recycled are a valuable resource and the cost of sending waste to landfill will continue to rise so the more we recycle and the less we send to landfill the better. “Greater Bendigo wants to become one of, if not the best, local government area for resource recovery in the future. “Many people may be surprised to learn that Greater Bendigo residents are not very good at recycling and we want to see this change for the better in the near future.” Results from the audit:-
- The average residential red lid waste bin contains 40% recyclable items, 22% organics and 38% actual waste.
- The recyclable materials found in the red lid waste bin were mostly paper and cardboard, glass, plastic and metals.
- The organic materials found in the red lid waste bin were mostly grass clippings and leaves, general food waste and food in packaging.
- The average residential recycling bin contains 9% contamination. This is comprised of 5.3% general waste and 3.7% of materials such as clothing, crockery and scrap metal that cannot be processed through the kerbside recycling collection.
- The average organics bin contains 2% contamination. This is comprised of 1% general waste and 1% recyclables such as glass, plastics and metals.
Lake Macquarie City Council is moving to a new consolidated tender to maintain its facilities.
SSROC and Veolia ANZ have opened an advanced Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) facility.
Approximately 1,500 NSW local government employees responded to the latest People Matter employee perception survey.
City of Darebin is implementing business process management to enhance its focus on customer service.
Councils have a strong business case for using drones to maintain and manage public amenities and assets.
A ten-week study and research has shown up shortfalls in some amalgamated council figures.
The Hills Shire Council has introduced Transitional Housing into council policy.
Transitional Housing: the cooperative solution that could solve housing for the homeless.
Commercial fitness operators will have to register with the City of Bendigo before operating in public parks.
The waste fiasco exposed in the Four Corners report will have wide-ranging implications for local governments.
The Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in many of Queensland’s remote areas.
“You can’t solve homelessness without housing.”