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.

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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.

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.

 

 

Happy New Year in 2017 Everyone

Council’s offices are open but with only a skeleton staff at this stage. I expect a number of your elected members are taking a well deserved break during this traditional time of reflection. I trust you have taken a similar opportunity between Christmas and New Years.

 

While wishing you a happy new year in 2017 I caught two of the western ward councillors enjoying their company today and good on them. Follows up from a blog last month by one of them. Seems they are quite cosy.So what were Councillor Jennie Boisvert of Clarence Park Ward and Councillor Bob Schnell of Goodwood Ward doing?

Contrary to common belief there were not in Holiday mode.  They were actually on the job, meeting with myself and Bob’s Co-Councillor Luke Smolucha.

And they (we) were meeting at my local coffee drop in for a coffee, bite to eat and a chat. That is Carnevale on East Avenue. You know, the one with the new face painting on their north wall.

We felt it might be worth your while us discussing what initiatives we might consider worthy of placing before the candidates for the newly formed state seat of Badcoe (formerly Ashford) in the lead up to the next State Election.

The next State Election is but 14 and a bit months away.

We await news of who will run for the two major parties at least will we see incumbent Steph Key continue for yet another term. Will Unley’s Mayor (as widely publicised) contest the seat. Who else might put their hand up.

While we await this Jennie, Bob, Luke & I believe we should stand ready to lobby for the best possible deal we can get from whoever the next Government will be. So today we discussed some possible initiatives we could lobby for.

How about you. You could help us to make it a Happy New Year in 2017 by letting us know what you might like to have us lobby for. Indeed why not consider joining us in our lobbying efforts.

 

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.

 

 

Robert Brokenshire to create what he wants to prevent

Family First member of State Parliament Robert Brokenshire is conducting a very worthy campaign to remove any semblance of party politics that may exist at the Local Government Level. His draft bill however will actually bring party politics into Local Government by default.

 

I agree with Robert. There is no place for political parties as I see it in Local Government. Local Government is all about the community. Those best qualified to represent the community are those who are part of the community. Those with a heart for the community.

We would all agree that members of Political Parties must first serve the interests of their party if they are to survive. Pre-selection to run for an electorate is all about finding candidates who will serve the party first and not the public. A person may get into politics with the community in mind but they have to satisfy the “party”first. Mr Brokenshire would know that only too well having served as a Minister in a Liberal Government.

He is to be commended for showing leadership to clean up the anomalies that exist know in local government elections that allow someone to enter local government without declaring affiliation with a political party. There is no consistency in what current members can advertise and those who are running for office for the first time. Unless and until elected candidates running for the first time do not have to declare political allegiances.

Clean up the Act. Thank you to push to correct this Robert.

But please Mr Brokenshire do not include item 6 -amendment of section 29, which is to legislate that party political membership/allegiance is shown on the ballot party. I ask you to consider how many people vote for someone because of their membership.

This will surely actually bring about the very thing you are trying to prevent; the politicising of local government. Show many people party political identification and they will vote party political.

We will then find party political affiliation within the membership of a local government. And all of a sudden we have voting in Council along party lines.

That will be, if it happens, the death of Local Government as we know it.

Of course we cannot stop this from happening but we don’t want to be responsible for providing the platform to make it easier to happen do we Robert. Please remove item 6 from your bill.

I see our Mayor is on the same page as me. Checkout his blog post here.