Thank You, thank you, thank you.

Thank you to everyone for indicating your confidence, allowing me to continue providing local leadership and working for you. It is heart-warming to receive your support.

More than this though, it is a great responsibility to represent you in local government.

Yes. Thank you.

Thank YouI thank all those who voted for me and those who chose to vote but did not vote for me. You both exercised your right to vote. You also showed your own leadership by accepting the responsibility to vote.

I received 410 of the 1355 votes cast by Clarence Park ratepayers. This is marginally less than what was required for a quota (429) in its own right on 1st preferences. Clarence Park ratepayers voted slightly more than the state average.

I thank also and especially that small band of volunteers who helped me with my campaign. Those who walked the streets for me delivering election flyers. Those also who scrutineer-ed for me. And to those who encouraged me during the process.

As your re-elected member of Council I will be working for all of you, whether you voted for me or not. I will be working for you whether or not you voted.

It is now time for me to celebrate my re-election. I will do this privately in the comfort of my own home and with my family. It won’t be a big celebration though as I reflect and focus on the responsibility you have bestowed on me.

For me, I am preparing my to do list as we speak in readiness to advance your interests in keeping with my many commitments. The commitments announced to you in this forum that have preceded this blog post.

I will post a blog as soon as I am able to report the makeup of the next Council.

Again. Thank You.

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

Externally imposed Rate Capping is Dead

Labor warned us a day ago. They confirmed today that they would join the cross benches and vote the Government’s bill down. Externally imposed rate capping is dead as a result.

 

Rate Capping is DeadSo up go the headlines. Rate capping Dead. No, externally imposed rate capping is dead.

The fact of the matter is, the Government’s Rate Oversight Bill is doomed.  As I have explained before the Government’s bill was not so much about rate capping as it was about an external body setting a cap on council rates.

This is good news for the local government industry. With due respect to ESCOSA, the body earmarked to be the oversee-er, you (the local community) are the best overseer there can be in keeping rates down.

Good news in that the government has never been clear on what how the rates should be capped. We were led to believe by the CPI.

By doing so we were told the average rates would come down $ 500.00 . That claim by Minister Knoll was probably the trigger for the bill’s failure.

If this were true, with 26,000 rate payers, the City of Unley revenue of some $ 40m would reduce by  $ 13m. An extravagant claim by the Government. That Councils are so extravagant they can reduce their rate based revenue by a third. I defy anyone to shave $ 13m of the Unley budget and honestly believe that the Council would survive.

The bill is yet to be voted down in the Parliament however. Until the fat lady sings as it were.

All that aside, it is comforting to hear that the opposition appears to be heeding the call of our Local Government Association’s assessment of how the sector CAN be reformed. The sector can do with reforming. The Government could do well to jump on board and grab the agenda back.

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.

Light Tension at Goodwood Oval as Saints Seek More illumination.

Our Council Assessment Panel will feel a light tension this Tuesday night. The Panel meets on that night to adjudicate on a single Development Application.

This application has prompted a not so light tension within the local community. This means it is the only application considered on the night.

Goodwood Oval LightsWith 4 independent members and just one elected member they are appointed under the Development Act to represent Council. They must assess applications based on the Act, the Development Regulations and the City of Unley Development Plan.

.

On Tuesday night they must decide whether to accept or refuse a Development Application by the Goodwood Saints Football Club. The club is seeking to extend the hours of use of the lights at Goodwood Oval.

As part of the process of determining the fate of the application they have received no fewer than 150 representations. Around half of these oppose the proposed development, half support. Some of those who have provided a representation will take the opportunity to verbally present to the Panel.

The tension between the Club and nearby residents caused by this application should not deter the Panel from their responsibility under the Act. That said I imagine there will be more than just a light tension in the gallery on Tuesday night.

As they exist courtesy of the Development Act and not the Local Government Act the panel cannot be lobbied. This is unlike when Council considers an issue. Even Council can’t influence them.

When the Panel read representations or hear testimonies they must evaluate them in purely development plan terms. This is enhanced with the influence of elected member diminished to just one of five. This courtesy, of course, of the former Planning Minister John Rau.

The big question is, will they agree with the recommendation of Council’s Planning Department who believe the application is not seriously at variance to the Development Plan.

Please Minister, Follow Unley’s Lead

As the government tries to take the lead on Planning Reform I implore them to follow Unley’s lead.

 

The Department of Planning, Transport & Infrastructure (DPTI), on behalf of the Minister, wrote to us late last year. They put a proposition to us  to co-operate with them as they push ahead with the Government’s planning agenda.

In attempting to take the lead on planning reform they have asked councils to collaborate with them. They are asking us to sign a formal agreement to work with them. An agreement intended as a living document that will adapt as things evolve and change. An agreement recognising the need for a more “formal” elected member involvement and direction.

I implore them to simply follow Unley’s lead. They have agreed with Unley’s approach to good design but this has yet to occur in other council areas.

This week our City Strategy & Policy Committee will be making a recommendation to Council in response to the Government’s request. I expect the committee (of which I am a member) and indeed council to agree to work with them. To facilitate the efficient and effective development and implementation of the new planning system, the co-operation and contribution of local government is pivotal.

In a spirit of continued co-operation and as an investment in better “local” outcomes, a genuine commitment to involvement is warranted. However, this must work both ways.

They (DPTI) need to recognise our understanding of the local environment. They need to follow Unley’s lead. Furthermore, other councils need to follow Unley’s lead.

We have already, with a series of DPAs, achieved the population accommodation required by the Government’s 30-year plan. We achieved this with selective rezoning. It has been achieved with planning principles for transitioning to adjacent residential zones not achieved anywhere else.

Please Minister, whoever you may be after the upcoming election, follow Unley’s lead.

Emotions around regulated and significant trees to be investigated

In the absence of our Mayor, I attended today’s Local Government Association AGM. It was a good day for me, and I expect everyone in our community will be pleased with the result.

On behalf of Unley Council I was able to address a problem with our State’s Development Assessment procedures that create conflict between groups of people causing emotional stress. A chance to do something around opposing emotions around regulated and significant trees to be investigated

We put forward a motion on the use of independent experts for assessment of regulated trees. The aim of the motion was to provide more clarity and assurance around the assessment of regulated and significant trees under the Development Regulations.

It allows people to believe council is allowing the removal of trees that are healthy, and not posing a threat to person or property. At the same time others can see council as ignoring the safety of people (particularly children), in favour of keeping trees.

This comes from there being potentially two reports with conflicting expert observations.

The motion below was put forward by me on the day and seeks for the emotions around regulated and significant trees to be investigated with a view to avoiding conflict and disappointment. It had a 90.9% support from those councils present.

 

That the Annual General Meeting requests the LGA to: 

  1. investigate with councils and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure the development of a Planning Circular which outlines the ‘special circumstances’ which should apply to request an expert or technical report relating to a tree; and 
  1. advocate for arborists involved in the assessment of Significant and Regulated Trees to be included in the Accredited Professionals scheme and Code of Practice to be established under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act.

We now await the investigations.