Is the LGA Lunatic Asylum correct in declaring there is no benefit to Councils being a member of the LGA?

As covered in my recent Lunatic Asylum blog post a claim being made by many elected members in the industry. This includes from within Unley Council.

They claim there is no benefit to Councils being a member of the LGA?

LGA LogoCity of Unley logoIndeed, two questions have been asked in our chamber along these very lines. Questions based on there being no benefit to Councils being a member of the LGA.

Answering the first question, to access these services the City of Unley invests $ 55,000.00 per annum.

Our membership entitles Unley of the services of the LGA in both advocacy and assistance.

The LGA is a representative body. Accordingly, it succeeds on the input of its members.  My blog “Are Your Leaders Showing Leadership or Merely Expert Spectators?”examines this observation.

Membership provides us with the following opportunities:

  • For us to share experiences with the wider local government industry;
  • To learn from each other;
  • To work together to find solutions for common obstacles; and
  • Make our work more cost-effective.

This is difficult to monetise. Anyone who is a member of any other association would recognise this. Whether in a sporting club, a social club, or a church, members recognise the need to have an association.

Businesses often ally themselves to an association. Even the trade union movement and all the Unions recognise this through the Council of Trade Unions.

Rate payers fund our membership. Let’s examine some of the benefits.

LGA advocacy is invaluable.

While we may obtain some grant funding by way of direct negotiation, we still need the LGA. We simply do not have the resources to be in continuous dialogue with the State or Federal Government.

We believe we are in the running for some funding for the King William Road redevelopment. Due to the advocacy on the part of the LGA this takes much pressure off the budgeting of this necessary project.

They influenced the implementation of the State’s new planning system.Likewise they provided input into the new Planning and Design Code. This because we we could not have done so on our own with some consistency with other Councils. Consequently, one recent major win here was their successfully obtaining relief for councils from contributing to the SA Planning Portal contributions. Sorry but I can’t remember how much this was but it was significant.

They have made submissions with our input to the State Government on the Community Engagement Charter, Design Code and Accreditation Scheme. Likewise they have advocated on the e-planning portal. This has resulted in a 12-month delay and a saving to councils upwards of $24,000.00.

The LGA provides direct assistance in several key areas.  Thankfully this can be measured financially.

Education and training available through the LGA would cost us at least $ 65,000.00 pa if we were to source like programs ourselves.

Just keeping up with legal changes confronting Councils and delegations and authorisations adds $ 10,000 pa to our costs.

Financial assistance is a major benefit. They provide this by way of low cost loans via their finance arm. As a result they save the 68 councils an average over $100,000.00 pa each. Most noteworthy, some Councils have tested this over time. Their investigations have concluded that the LGAFA to be the best avenue of low cost loans.

Likewise, the workers compensation scheme and the mutual liability scheme save on average across the 68 councils around $ 500,000 each.

This year is an election year. Because of their resources the LGA provides the bulk of the cost of achieving this, saving us around 0.5 FTE and a cost of $ 50,000.00. Especially relevant this is the same as the membership fee.

In conclusion, I suggest anyone suggesting there is no benefit to Councils being a member of the LGA is not demonstrating leadership.

City of Unley 2018/19 Budget ready for Public Input.

The City of Unley tomorrow night will consider and endorse the draft of the 2018/19 Budget for public input. You will then have an opportunity to review the presented projects and their impact on funding requirements.

It will be your chance to influence 2108/19 budget, the rates you will be paying, and what services you will receive for this. It is indeed your chance to show the new State Government that you would prefer to influence our budget rather than allow another tier of Government (with no empathy for your neighbourhood) do it for you.

Council is considering a rate increase of 2.5% resulting in new borrowings in the order of $5.277 m to deliver all proposed projects and maintain current service levels. Not yet included is any allowance for increased waste disposal costs on the 2018/19 Budget.

Not included is any impact resulting from China’s ban on foreign waste to determine how this will affect our recyclables contract. We are currently investigating the impact. I am not sure whether we will have enough information to include it tomorrow night. Once done though it will quantify any possible cost increases for the disposal of recyclables (yellow bin) so as to incorporate it in our final draft.

Community consultation on our 2018/19 Budget

Community consultation will occur between 26 April and 25 May 2018. It will include six (6) public meetings/community information sessions as shown below. Council will also receive submissions by visiting Council’s website (through Your Say Unley) or written submissions to PO Box 1, Unley 5061.

We will accept all submissions up until the close of business on 25 May 2018.

Location                                                      Date                                 Time

Goodwood Library                                        10 May                            10.30am – 11.30am

Clarence Park Community Centre            10 May                             6.30pm – 7.30pm

(How convenient for ratepayers residing in my Ward)

Unley Civic Centre                                        14 May                             6.30pm – 7.30pm

Living Choice Fisher Street                        17 May                             10.30am – 11.30am

Living Choice Fisher Street                        17 May                              6.00pm – 7.00pm

Unley Community Centre                         21 May                              10.00am- 11.00am

The Annual Community Plan which underpins the 2018/19 budget will be found on the Council website after the meeting. Highlights can be found in my separate blog which I expect to post on Tuesday.

Budget Approved at 2.2%

After months of work and a seemingly never ending conversation Coucnil last night approved the 2016/17 budget.

 

imagesIn recent days that conversation became quite polarised with a small number of councillors pushing for a 2.7% increase. The change in the conversation during this time alarmed me in that there was no prerequisite to raise the rate increase we had worked on all that time. Just an arbitrary and without foundation we believe it should grow by 0.5%.

 

Thankfully Coucnil showed a maturity and demonstrated leadership by approving the 2.2% rate increase which had been nominated in our public consultation. A rate increase we had no fewer than 4 outside experts confirm as a responsible rate increase and a responsible and sustainable level of debt.

With the lowest rate rise in the time I have been on council I believe we have set a responsible and sustainable budget.

It includes from those of us who live in the west of Unley’s point of view the following:

      Councils contribution to the under-grounding of power lines @ $ 300,000 of Goodwood Road

      Upgrade of Goodwood Road streetscape and way finding @ $ 3.3 m (using loan funding)

      Continuation of the implementation of the King William Road Master Plan

      An increase in funding to address issues raised thus far in our LATM study

      $ 250,000 towards preliminary works on Brownhill Creek

      Safety road works around the Goodwood Primary School

      Footpath replacements in Laught Avenue Black Forest. The remainder of footpaths in the Clarence Park ward are scheduled for 2017/18 when the program terminates.

      Tennis Court resurfacing and fence repair at Page Park.

      A catch up of CPI for our community grants scheme.

      Fruit trees in Princess Margaret Playground

      Responding to tree risk assessment in Dora Guild Playground

In signing off I note that a 2.2% increase on annual rates paid say of last year at $ 1,600.00 equates to an increase of $ 35.00. This is of course subject to whether your homes value (as determined by the Valuer General) alters at the same rate as the combination of all properties in Unley. In other words there may be some variation to this.

The minimum rate will increase by $ 17.00 to $ 758.00

 

Rates Out of Control Take 2

Following on my first two blog posts on this topic I again challenge the concept of why the media has a fixation on our rates should be aligned to CPI.

The capacity to pay the rates is the substantiation that the media promote for keeping them aligned to CPI.

Forgetting my argument about what services to keep and what to get rid of, what new services to provide and what not; all of which I believe is the most important part of ensuring we area sustainable, let us examine what the capacity to pay is.

Yes, I absolutely agree our ratepayers must have the capacity to pay and if they don’t this too is unsustainable. I ask therefore what is capacity to pay and how can it be measured.

As I indicated in my first post on this subject CPI is not a measure of capacity to pay. It is a measure of what a package of goods and services have cost the community in the last 12 months.

What the true measure of your ability to pay is what has happened to your pay packet or your pension.

CPI has risen according to my information 31.3% in the last 10 years. In that time wages rose 43.6%. So in spite of the media’s take that we are finding it harder to make ends meet and are in a worse position than the past, these figures indicate that we are in fact better off. That basket of goods and services from my first blog post on this subject is taking less of our pay at that rate.

But what about those on pensions, they are doing it tough. My research indicates that pensions have risen 57% in that time. This suggests pensioners are significantly better off notwithstanding what we all may have felt.

The recent article of course will show that rates generally have exceeded even these increases. Thankfully Unley is one that has risen the least in that time, up 55.2%. Our rates therefore have risen 11.6% more than wages in that time but less than pensions by 1.8%.

Keeping rates within the capacity to pay is a challenge and truly, I think we have done reasonably well.

I trust our rate payers appreciate that whatever our rate levels have been that they have been provided value in that the community has benefited in a tangible way with improved infrastructure and worthy and valuable services that all go to an improved living environment here in Unley.

Rates Out of Control Take 2

Following on from this mornings blog post I wish to make some other observations about Council Rate Increases and how they should be rated.

This morning I questioned why they are always compared to CPI by the media.

I wish to throw two thoughts out there for people to consider. The first, which I cover in this blog post, is what backs up the level of rates Councils charge. The second I will cover in another and separate blog post.

Council rates provide the opportunity to provide services to the local community. Without rates we do  not provide rubbish collection, library services or community centres. We don’t provide facilities for our community sporting groups to provide exercise and activity opportunists for or community. The list goes on.

Each year Council considers a business plan for the coming 12 months and a long the financial strategy. This plan determines which services are to be provided and is put out to the public for their input.

The plan composes all the programs that Council considers should be part of creating and sustaining their community and providing an environment for good living. This is all about identifying what we can do for our residents and businesses, costing them out so we know the impact on our resources.  We then debate which programs should have the highest priority and whether or not we can implement them.

And I must say that this year we had real problems determining which programs were worthy of continuing or starting afresh and/or which programs should be slowed, stopped or not even started. A debate over programs all of which will enhance the livability of the neighbourhoods we serve.

Now…Unlike Federal & State Governments we take this plan out to our people for their input. Residents and businesses get the opportunity to advise us which programs they would continue or which ones they would axe. If they do not like the amount of rates they are more than welcome to suggest which programs to keep and which to get rid of.

The final rate increase is set only after this procedure has been completed, the public have had their say and we as elected members make our final determination of which programs to proceed with.

This years plan has been available for public scrutiny for a month or more now and public submissions close tomorrow. It can be found on our have your say webpage