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.

Are Your Leaders Showing Leadership or Merely Expert Spectators?

I remember reading once that before you can be a leader you need to be able to follow. Can I ask are your community leaders showing leadership? Or are they merely spectators?

I also remember being a member of a club whose whole 20 some membership formed the management committee. At meetings of this club a group would sit in the background talking about what was happening in their lives outside the club. They would then complain as soon as the meeting was complete about the poor decisions being made by the committee.

Another memory was attending a seminar where the speaker spoke about “the exerts are all in the grandstand”.

He spent 45 minutes differentiating between those on the field and those in the grandstand. He talked of the athletes making mistake after mistake but getting back up again. Of how they left their guts on the field.

He then spoke of those in the grandstand. Those self-appointed experts who spent the entire match criticising those game enough to put their bodies on the line. Those who pulled apart and examined every mistake and who called for the sacking of some of the gladiators.

Back to you! Does this portray your community leader/s. Or do those representing your community on Council have vision. Are they leaders showing leadership.

Are they prepared to enter the debate. Prepared to explore, examine, and be prepared to make decisions. To be part of the solution.

Do they do this at Council level. Do they then also contribute at an LGA level?

In other words, are your leaders showing leadership or are they simply spectating and/or complaining. Do they sit back at Council level, wait for others to move motions and then criticise?

Do they help you through the bureaucracy, whether at Local level or at State and Federal level or do they simply criticise Council staff or the various government departments?

Listen to what your leaders are currently saying about membership of the LGA.

In November you have the chance of rewarding your leaders or replacing them, if you believe they aren’t, with someone who will provide the leadership you deserve.

Time to make sure our Credit Card policy is working as it should.

After the recent media interest, it is time to make sure our Credit Card policy is working as it should. This is the recommendation of our Audit & Governance Committee.

As I indicated in my first blog on this topic, Unley has a written policy on the use of credit cards.

It is not however a Credit Card policy. Accordingly, it is the Corporate Purchase Card Policy.

First of all, we only issue credit cards to officers who regularly minor purchases. Most of all, elected members aren’t. 

We introduced the use of corporate credit cards in 2013. We did this in response the growing on-line supply market and to business demand for an efficient procurement options at local stores. Due also, to transacting with stores that do not offer business accounts.

Credit cards are a low cost and efficient procurement option for low value, low risk purchases. Consequently, the use of credit cards has resulted in a decrease in the use of petty cash, which is a less transparent process.

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As at the 30 June 2017, Council had issued 30 cards to employees, and their use last financial year was about 2% of total expenditure.

The review will assess the following:

  • the operational business need for credit cards.
  • the level of cards issued.
  • current policies and procedures.
  • record keeping practices.
  • appropriateness of expenditure incurred.
  • level of internal controls required.

The review will therefore identify improvement opportunities in use, policies, systems, reporting and supply management. 

In addition to this review, mandatory educational sessions will be held for for staff to re-educate them about appropriate use and their obligations as cardholders. 

The internal audit report will be presented to the next meeting in May 2018 of the Audit & Governance Committee.

CONCLUSION

The aim of the audit of our Credit Card policy will be to provide a clear picture of areas for improvement, process controls, access to policies and the use of reporting tools to continually review and monitor use. 

Alleged Refusal has Unley Drawn into Crackdown on Credit Cards

In the wake of the reported goings on at the City of Onkaparinga the State Auditor General has advised of a Crackdown on Credit Cards. He will be investigating the use of credit cards in Local Government.

 

If what has happened at the City of Onkaparinga is anything to go by this is an appropriate action by the Auditor General. I look forward to the results of his investigation.

As you would expect the media has jumped on this Crackdown on Credit Cards. They have suggested that the City of Unley was one of three councils who refused to respond to a series of questions put to all Councils.

That is not correct. We did respond.  Our reply was not received prior to their own tight deadline. They therefore reported as a refusal to answer. The journalist has promised to correct this on the electronic version of the storey.

Unley has a written policy on the use of cards. A policy labelled the Corporate Purchase Card Policy. Council issues cards to officers who are regularly exposed to making minor purchases.

Cards v Petty Cash

As with all organisations and/or businesses, Councils in the past used a petty cash system to process minor purchases.

The use of cards has been identified as a way of transacting in a more efficient manner. Rather than use the old-fashioned messy petty cash system. It is also a more transparent method of transacting than a petty cash system.

 

Our Policy

Our policy is quite explicit in that:

Each Card has a monthly limit imposed on it. It is for official business only. The policy does not allow private purchases under any circumstance.  Nor does it permit cash advances.

A valid tax invoice must be issued with each purchase, clearly stipulating what the purchase was for and any GST applicable.

Is that not the way it should be?

 

The Future of Local Government-Local Government in Crisis

Local Government in Crisis was the topic of a summit I attended recently on behalf of the City of Unley in Melbourne.

 

As testimony that local government (worldwide) is in crisis the leaders of the summit sited the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. To build on this a key note speaker spoke of the crisis being faced by the City of London.

 

Curious examples I would have thought. An outsider being elected to the post known as the leader of the free world. A sovereign country leaving the European Union. The London Council, more like a State Parliament here.

Local Government in Crisis

Truthfully Governments, we all know, are in something of a crisis worldwide as evidenced by the examples given above. Does this drill down to local governments is the question to be answered?

 

Councils over in New South Wales it could be argued are in crisis. Theirs’s however is not one of people being disillusioned with them. It is under the pressure of forced amalgamations being imposed by the State Government. The people there indeed are actually fighting their State Government in support of the current Local Government model.

 

And back here in Adelaide the LGA has conducted a survey which has indicated that local government is the most trusted level of government in this state. A far cry from what I was hearing in Melbourne.

 

Local Government to lead the way, not Local Government in Crisis

 

Backed by these last two observations what I do agree coming out of the Summit is that Local Government “can” lead the way to correcting the disillusionment in Government that the Trump, Brexit factor shows exists. So far from the catch cry being local government being in crisis it should be local government to lead the way in healing public government relations.

 

In other words, I agree with the manifesto that came out of the Summit. A manifesto that rests on a belief that the state of the nation and the health of our society depend on community-driven action in the neighbourhood, not just decisions made in parliaments or boardrooms.

 

Put another way, the crisis facing governments worldwide can only be addressed by a localist approach. And that my friends is the strength of Councils similar in size to the City of Unley.

 

 

Unley under attack

Unley under attack is the consistent image out there right now, ever since the the clock turned over to 2016 and for a myriad of reasons.

While we believe we have been working hard to improve the community of Unley others have not seen it this way. They have found reason to attack us it seems daily in the first two months of the year. The attacks have been continuous with little time to come up for air before copping another salvo.

It all started at the arrival of the new year. This was when Eastern Courier Columnist Andrew Faulkner denigrating council over it’s allocating  $2.0 m under “general” in its accounts.  This article insinuated impropriety on our part. My blog of 21 January hopefully put it into context. Abiding by the legislation that governs us has made us to look like we are guilty of something sinister.Unley Paid Parking

This was followed with criticism by the Minister for Transport. While were looking after our rate payers, he has us as being greedy by fleecing and discouraging public transport use against his governments policies.

My blog of 26 February responded to the messages out there at the time. Curiously his diatribe about going behind his back seems focused on only one street. The other street in our trial IS fortunately on council land I am assured and he has not commented on this street.

With little time to breath we then saw local state MP for Unley David Pisoni criticising our 2nd generation tree policy. This is currently out for public consultation. His observations, welcomed as part of the consultation, but which were made in public indicate we are going to decimate our tree population. This is curious as the intent of the policy is to ensure we protect our tree assets by having a targeted replacement program over time rather than wait and find we have to replace most of our trees in a short time frame because they have come to the end of their life around the same time.

Then to finish it off (I hope) West Torrens Mayor John Trainer (a resident of Unley) purportedly has spoken with us about a concern he has with sight lines at one of our intersections (one I suspect he uses regularly) which I am sure we will investigate. It becomes a public claim however (don’t know how) keeping the media pressure on Unley.

Of course in the background to all this and which all this feeds into is the ongoing murmurings of those who would see Local Government removed in favour of the State Government looking after local matters such as which street should be upgraded and which park should have improvements. In my opinion and irrespective of how it may have been reported we are seeing why Local Government should stay.

Can you surely expect the State Government to be as interested as we are in the local community. I think not.

 

 

Federal Government Sabotages Local Government Recognition

The Government may have spelled the demise of the Local Government Recognition in the upcoming referenda by not understanding how the opposition and minor parties weer going to vote on the legislation required to allow the referenda to proceed.

The result, an absolute and unfair disparity between the funding being made available for the yes vs the no votes. The No vote argument is getting very little funding and the press is up in arms. Rightfully so too.

The perception will be and is we are conning you by making sure you only get the yes argument.

Here is the rub. The Government determined they would fund the yes and no vote campaigns based on the vote in the lower house.

Well Guess What!

The vote in favour of the question being put at a referenda was 

                                              

                                                                               Yes      148

                                                                                No         2                       

                                                                               Whoops!

When a no vote actually is changing the status quo

Be aware that a no vote in the upcoming referenda will not maintain the status quo.

Normally a no vote in referenda maintains the status quo but not this time. In every referenda held in this country the item of the referenda is proposing change. Make no mistake ….. not this time.

Federal Governments have been funding Local Government’s directly for a long time, irrespective of political persuasion, Liberal or Labor. It has been a practice that all forms of government have accepted and it has worked well.

As I have said in a recent post the Feds at the end of the day control the majority of the purse strings.

At the upcoming election you will be asked to recognise Local Government in the constitution so that this practice may continue.

So a yes vote will maintain the status quo. A no vote on the other hand may, in light of recent challenges to the high court, mean that this practice will have to cease.

Be very certain of this. If you and your country men & women vote no then what the current practice is may have to cease. This can only mean funding must be transferred via the State Government.

And I simply ask this…..is this what you want?

Referenda Update

Further to my post recently on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government I have been directed by our Mayor, Lachlan Clyne to the official Government website explaining this change.

A call for constitutional change requires a bill of parliament and the website covering the bill for the Local Government Constitutional change sets it out simply and clearly as follows:

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Constitution Alteration (Local
Government) 2013
No. , 2013

A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution to recognise local government by stating that the Commonwealth can grant financial assistance to local government, including assistance for community and other services.

The Parliament of Australia, with the approval of the electors, as required by the Constitution, enacts:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

So you can see for yourself go to http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/legislation/bills/r5071_first-reps/toc_pdf/13129b01.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22legislation/bills/r5071_first-reps/0000%22

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

So please be wary of those promoting that this is about giving Local Government more power. As I said in my first post on this topic it is about being about to offer grants direct to Local Government and not having to pass it through the State Governments.

Hope this helps.

Controversial Cabinet Re-Shuffle has a twist to it

The focus of Premier Wetherill’s Cabinet Re-shuffle is on his taking on the Treasury portfolio but wait…..there’s more!
 

But in correspondence to us he has indicated he will also take on the Public Sector portfolio. He has advised he wants to work with us to make the changes needed to improve the services we offer the community.
I wonder what he has in mind and how much time he can devote to it.
Watch this space is all I can say!