Providing Local Leadership: Working for better local government (LGA).

The City of Unley has not taken full advantage of their membership of the Local Government Association (LGA). Many other Councils likewise.

 

LGA LogoThey all willingly take advantage of services such as the discounts available on Insurance or lower finance costs in taking out loans. Likewise, other services such as these are on offer and utilised.

We all also gain a benefit from the significant research and advocacy that the LGA provides. Research and advocacy that Councils individually simply could not afford to do on their own.

Councils who contribute to what to research or what advocacy to undertake are the ones who receive the greatest benefit. By this I mean the LGA will research what the Councils who take an interest ask them to research. Likewise they will undertake advocacy roles asked of them by the majority of Councils. Unley has not recently contributed t this.

Some Councils who also have been inactive here have complained they don’t get the service they should from the LGA. Murmurings similar to this have echoed from time to time in Unley.

I have always been a firm believer that an association is only as good as its membership. Active members make for a strong association. Passive members don’t contribute and this is when a feeling of disassociation occurs. Not because of the executive however but because of the members themselves.

To avoid the City of Unley being caught up in this I have put my hand up to become our representative on the Greater Adelaide Region of Councils (GAROC) Committee. Council has endorsed my nomination.

If elected to this board by the LGA members I need also to look for your endorsement as one of your two local councillors. If you elect someone else, no-one from Unley will be providing local leadership to the LGA.

Written & authorised by Don Palmer, 19 Kelvin Avenue, Clarence Park SA 5034

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.

LGA Rate Capping Stance Prompts Call for LGA to be Dumped.

Everyone knows the State Government wish to impose rate capping on Local Government. We also know that the Local Government Association (LGA) has consistently opposed this.

Now some elected members are nervous of retribution by the State Government because of the LGA campaign.

Many are calling for the LGA to withdraw its campaign. Some for the sacking of the LGA. Others, including from within Unley, are calling for their Council to cancel their membership.

Hang on guys. We do not yet know what the Government is proposing or what form rate capping will take. We do not even know whether it will be approved by Parliament. When we do know then we will be able to direct the LGA to lobby on our behalf.

The question of LGA membership or the future of the LGA I addressed this morning in my LGA Lunatic Asylum blog post.

The question of rate capping remains however whatever happens in the LGA arena.

In my opinion, and from what I believe should be an Unley point of view, I still do not see a need for a State induced rate capping. I have written several blog posts covering this.

Let us recognize that Unley DOES have rate cappingRate Capping.

For the last six years we have set our rate first and adjusted our budget to suit. The cap we have set is CPI plus 1%.

During this time our rates have increased 25% compared to an average 41% in the rest of the industry.

This year we expect to be well inside this, maybe CPI plus 0.3%

.If other Councils were doing this then I venture to suggest the Government would not be threatening to impose an external cap.

Would it not be great if most Councils followed Unley’s lead? We would not be having any arguments now. Not rate capping. Not cancelling membership of the LGA etc.

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.

Should we repeal the code of conduct for council members.

The code of conduct for council members is not working many believe. Scrap it some say. We should repeal the code of conduct for council members.

I agree we do need to remove the opportunity for frivolous or vexatious claims to divert us from more important issues. We also need to strengthen the Code to deal with the more serious offending. My final statement in my last blog was the system needs an overhaul.

There is evidence that members have used the Code to bully their colleagues. There is also evidence of persons outside of Council using the Code to make false and misleading claims.

Investigating claims requires significant resources and funding. Resources that are better put to building our community in the case of such claims.

The Premier recently announced an intention to repeal the code of conduct for council members, possibly because of this.

There is another side to this argument. The actions of a handful of elected members are so grave there remains a need for a system to deal with it.

So, while there is angst concerning the frivolous, the Local Government Association (LGA) is advocating for tougher measures in the Act. In other words, they are advocating for the existing code to be improved and strengthened.

A stronger code of conduct with increased penalties for breaches will provide councils with better tools to address serious – albeit isolated – behavioural issues as they arise. The ability to bring to account those that bring our industry into disrepute. At the same time an opportunity for minor behavioural breaches not to be used to bring us into disrepute.

In this background the Premier has announced he is putting off his plans to repeal it. Presumably he is waiting on talks with the LGA.

We should repeal the code of conduct for council members.

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.

 

 

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.