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.

Local Government Lunatic Asylum Calling for Dumping of LGA

With a Local Government election looming the Lunatic Asylum is now active at Local Government level. Many in our industry, including from within Unley Council, are calling for the LGA to be abolished. At the very least some are questioning whether their own Council should continue to be members.

LGASA

Local Government

I expect many in the Community would agree and I don’t blame you. Your knowledge of the LGA would be based more than likely totally on what you hear in the media or sadly, from us.

Those inside the industry should know better however. Given this I suggest they are members of the local government lunatic asylum.

Associations are only ever as good as their membership. The LGA is no different. It is only as good as its membership. It is the membership that makes an Association strong.

I put it to those inside the industry to take a cold, hard look at themselves. This includes members of my own Council, Unley.

The LGA can only ever be as strong or as weak as they (the elected members) want it to be. Members need to be active, to participate in working groups and the decision-making process. The LGA will be stronger only if its members actively contribute and not expect to get everything done for them without contributing.

Much of the angst I believe against the LGA springs from their fight against rate capping. The claim is they are not representing the industry in this campaign.

Given only a handful of the 68 Councils in SA voted against the campaign, Unley included, to make this claim surley questions whether you should be part of the local government lunatic asylum. While I have blogged previously on this, this may need to be the focus of a later blog.

Many are justifying their stance by claiming that we (Councils) don’t get value for our membership. Once again it is my belief that these Councillors are not contributing to making the Association relevant. More also on that in a later blog.

Outcomes from 2017 LGA Ordinary General Meeting

Acting on behalf of our Mayor, as your Deputy Mayor, I attended last months LGA Ordinary General Meeting. A number of initiatives were passed for action by the LGA.

Below is a summary from LGA President Lorraine Rosenberg on the outcomes from the LGA Ordinary General Meeting.

It was fantastic to catch up with many of you at our 2017 Council Best Practice Showcase and Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) in Adelaide last month.

Some of the key outcomes that came out of our OGM included member councils asking the LGA to:

  • Request an update from the State Government about the Waste to Resources Fund, and how much of the money in this fund has been reinvested in waste management programs.
  • Consult with councils as to whether to lobby DPTI to review the Australian Road Rules relating to the provision of legal parking of vehicles on nature strips.
  • Propose a partnership with the Electoral Commission to pilot electronic voting in the 2018 Local Government elections.
  • Undertake a public campaign to advocate for the deregulation of liquor licensing to allow for small bars across South Australia.
  • Investigate whether there is sufficient evidence across local government to declare high speed high capacity broadband to be a utility, defined as an essential infrastructure service to achieve the goal of universal coverage.
  • Lobby the State Government to resource the Office of the Coordinator General to coordinate public infrastructure works between the State Government, councils and public utility providers.
  • Explore business models that could be used by the local government sector to manage commercial operations in order to offset the cost of council services for our community.
  • Investigate ways in which access and inclusion is approached by councils, and assist in making this approach consistent across the sector where possible.
  • Advocate to the State Government for the establishment of a Climate Change Adaptation fund that could be accessed by the sector.
  • Work with ALGA, Federal and State Government, and local universities to establish a national centre for local government innovation, research and development in Adelaide.

These motions will help form a key part of our advocacy agenda for the coming year, as we represent councils to both ratepayers and other spheres of government.

Draft minutes from the meeting are available to download from our website.

Councils – the lean machine as promoted by the LGA

Councils – the lean machine: that is the catch phrase for a new publicity program being put out by the Local Government Association (LGA).

In the early days of this blog site I started a similar series albeit, with apologies, not completed. With the recent threat by the opposition to cap Council rates when in Government. With the State Government imposing extra exorbitant taxes through us. With Marion seeking to withdraw from the Association.

Now we see the LGA seeing the need to remind us all what Councils do provide the tax payers of this country.

Below is a media release last week by the LGA titled Councils – the lean machine I trust you will find informative. You may have experienced already the start of this campaign.

2016_LGA_RatesCampaign_AdConcept_F.PDF

The LGA will launch a new campaign  highlighting the diverse range of services

and infrastructure councils provide to their communities, while taking less than 4% of

Australia’s total tax.

2016_LGA_RatesCampaign_AdConcept_F

LGA CEO Matt Pinnegar said with households about to receive their rates notices for

2016/17, it was important for ratepayers to know what they are getting for their money.

“Councils in South Australia manage around $22 billion worth of infrastructure, while

providing hundreds of services and facilities in their communities,” Mr Pinnegar said.

“These can include libraries, community centres, immunisation clinics, men’s sheds, footy

ovals, community events, aged care services, swimming pools and much more.

“The days of the three R’s – roads, rates and rubbish – are long gone. The State

Government is giving us more to do, and our communities are telling us they want and

expect more, so councils are stepping in to meet these needs.”

Other council facilities and services can include caravan parks, cemeteries, coastal care,

community buses, development and planning services, bushfire prevention, dog and cat

management, disability services, economic development, place making, environmental

programs, footpath maintenance, tourism information, museums, roads, netball and tennis

courts, playgrounds, recycling facilities, skate parks, street lighting, and storm water drains.

Mr Pinnegar said that goal of the campaign was to communicate that councils provide these

services while taking less than 4% of the nation’s tax.

“80% of all tax paid in Australia goes to the Federal Government, and 16% of it goes to the

states,” Mr Pinnegar said.

“We understand there’s some confusion around the funding received by councils –

especially with more and more State Government taxes being included in council rates.

“The NRM Levy is an obvious example, and is clearly listed on rates notices, but there are

others, such as the rapidly escalating Solid Waste Levy, Rubble Royalties, and Community

Housing rebates, which are all paid by councils and ultimately their ratepayers.

“What people may not realise is that in South Australia, councils receive the lowest funding

per capita of anywhere in Australia, the least amount of grants from their State Government,

and an unfair share of local road funding from the Federal Government.

“We firmly believe local government is a lean machine – and the most efficient sector of

government in Australia – given all we are able to deliver for our communities with less than

4% of national taxation.”

Hoping this helps all understand the role of Councils – the lean machine.

What will the Council of the Future look like

This is your big chance. You can have your say into how Councils might look into the future.

The State Government some time back commissioned a Local Excellence Local Expert Panel to look into what the Council of the Future would look like, headed by by former State Government Minister Greg Crafter and includes former Judge Christine Trenorden and Professor Graham Samson.

This report is due to be tabled at the Local Government Association Annual General Meeting in October.

The panel is seeking your input. I suggest you go to their web site (below), read their work and if you feel a need have a say.

http://www.lga.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=2939

I encourage you to read their comprehensive report, which is full of questions. I encourage you also to have your say on any part of the report.

As the report says at the very end…………………

This is a once in a generation opportunity to influence the shape of the “Council of the Future”

What will Councils look like in the future

Bob Such’s push for Big is Beautiful as the panacea for the future of Councils in South Australia has had the headlines in recent times. In the meantime the Local Government Industry has been active in defining it’s own future and not with a simply Big is Beautiful philosophy.

Back in 2011 the LGA launched the Local Excellence Program and invited Councils to respond to four theme papers and to 68 project proposals. The Program incorporates a range of new reform activities that the LGA is seeking to engage Councils in and incorporates current activities that fit within the aims of the Program, which are to:

  • Redefine the role and functions of Councils in key areas of activity;
  • Consolidate opportunities and identify service innovation using test sites;
  • Enhance the skills of staff and Council Members in governance and community engagement;
  • Identify the barriers to service delivery, governance and intergovernmental excellence in SA and strategies to raise performance; and
  • Undertake research to enhance future State/Local Government relations.

In April of this year a three person expert panel to guide the development of a vision for a “Council of the Future”. The Panel will be chaired by former State Government Minister, Hon Greg Crafter with former District Court judge, Christine Trenorden and the Director of the Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government, Professor Graham Sansomearch to enhance future State/Local Government relations.

The Panel will work to describe Councils of the Future from various perspectives and using a consultative approach will form small reference and working groups from key projects within the Excellence Program to help chart the future.

A far cry from just looking at larger councils. Maybe our friend could provide input to this panel.