Stronger Council Member Capacity and Better Conduct

Stronger Council Member capacity and better Conduct is the first reform area in the Government’s Local Government Reform Agenda. This is indeed the area of highest priority.

 

Accordingly, stronger Council Member capacity and better conduct is the first area I also am giving thought to. As I noted in my blog post of 21 August I intend to convey my thoughts in each of the areas.

I agree with doing this. The Local Government industry agrees with doing this. Apart maybe from a handful of recalcitrant elected members, that is. Members who don’t see themselves as part of the elected body team struggle with this. Those who seemingly must be seen as fighting the establishment.

The media agrees with this and, with their prodding, so do you. Poor behaviour or conduct makes for the Medias view of good press. The press push any notion of poor behaviour on the part of elected members. With this being invariably the sole source of information you have on local government you obviously will likely share the same view.

What you might read in the press however is not the problem that needs to be addressed. It is separating integrity and behavioural issues, and the mechanisms that currently exist to deal with both.

The current rules are a vast improvement on the previous rules. They create confusion however. Members can be compelled by these rules to report perceived code of conduct breaches in fear of being in breach themselves.

The proposal being put forward aims to separate matters of integrity and behavioural matters. This is a must. Matters of integrity must always have robust procedures for handling, including penalties. On the other hand, behavioural matters can and should be dealt with differently.

 

The Government is proposing 20 recommendations.

 

Generally speaking I support all of these. Some with a degree of caution.

Please look to my next two blog posts as I look more closely at the difference between matters of integrity and behavioural matters. Look also for my thoughts on increasing the powers of the Mayor and (in a separate blog post) my thoughts on conflict of interest.

Local Government Reform Recommendations are a mixed bag.

Local Government Reform Recommendations are a mixed bag but fail to address the Government’s core objective. That is my in initial observation as I endeavour to review each of their 72 recommendations.

 

As I revealed in my last blog post the Government has made 72 recommendations to inform a new Local Government Act. 72 recommendations over 4 core reform areas. Some good, some not so good. I will respond to these in later blog posts.

Up front I have to say the recommendations fail the pub test though of achieving their core objective. They will not help to reduce the cost of local government providing the services they provide you. Indeed there is every potential they will increase the cost of providing those services.

They fail to look at what Local Government could look like in the future. They focus instead on fixing perceived legislative failings. A RACE TO THE BOTTOM AS IT WHERE. The reforms appear to have us spending MORE on governance than on roads and rubbish.

The recommendations, by and large all centre around governance, good governance. As a public utility spending public money (your money) it is important that good governance is a given. It is only natural that when reviewing procedures that the focus quickly turns to solving what is not working.

Not surprisingly, this leads to increasing governance measures. So naturally, any such exercise will potentially lead not to reduced costs but to increased costs. If that happens then the obvious question that must be asked is, am I getting good value for the extra $ I will see leave my pockets. Will it be worth it?

Not only are the reform recommendations are a mixed bag, they place potentially greater legislative restrictions on how we provide for our community. So, before you respond to the Governments invitation to contribute to the conversation, may I suggest you truly consider each recommendation and what it really means. If in doubt, look to my future posts on the reform recommendations.

Goodwood Oval Clubroom a Goer after 2nd CAP approval.

The Council Assessment Panel this week supported a compromise recently reached between the Clubs, Neighbouring Residents and Council.

 

New Goodwood Oval Clubroom

New Goodwood Oval Clubroom

The ERD Court however must ratify the decision. I understand that, rather than go to the Court, this will be done administratively by the Court. Expect therefore, confirmation within the next week.

.

The detail of the changes and the negotiations between the parties remain confidential, until such time as the ERD court rubber stamp the approval. Whilst, by my take, the changes are minor from a planning perspective the compromises should please everyone.

The residents will benefit. The original design would have provided them a model with less interference than the model that exists today. The changes, brokered by them, will provide even greater protections to their amenity.

Changes focused mostly around disturbance to the local amenity. In each case the changes have been included as conditions to approval. They should ensure that disturbances from club activity are kept to an absolute minimum.

To see the list of conditions, check out item 13 on page 11 of the minutes from the CAP meeting held on Tuesday this week.

The Clubs can now plan their futures, both the short term and the long term. In the short term, they will be able to confirm to the sporting bodies with whom they belong the availability of the Goodwood Oval facility. The next cricket season, soon to start, and next year’s football season can now be programmed with certainty.

Council likewise can now plan for construction, also with certainty. Goodwood Oval Clubroom a Go-er for all to see as 2020 kicks in.

In order to expedite the project and meet the time conditions of the State Government Grant, Council has commenced with preparing working drawings and preparing the engineering design work. Once complete we can call tenders from Builders. We can proceed to construction once the final costs are known and any extra funding sourced that may be required once the costs are known.

Our aim will be to accept a tender before Christmas. This will allow construction in the new year.

Local Government Reform recommendations out for Public Consultation.

Local Government Reform recommendations are finally out for Public Consultation. The Government now wants to hear from you.

 

Local government reform and cutting the cost of local government was one of the election platforms of the State Government. They lost out to the Opposition and the Minor Parties with their blunt rate capping strategy. Notwithstanding this, they have been working hard on coming up with a suite of legislative changes that are aimed at a more efficient local government sector.

The local government industry has been in conversation with them since they took office. This continues the dialogue we had with the previous government. As I have blogged before, change is needed.

They now want to hear from you, and me.

With a view to introducing a draft bill in March next year the Minister has endorsed 72 recommendations. He is keen to know what we all think about these proposed changes. We all have until November 1st to provide our feedback.

If you have an interest in how local government might best serve you, here is perhaps your best chance. Go to the DPTI website and read through the recommendations.

If you have an opinion on any of them please make it known through their have your say. You can do this on the have your say page.

The 72 Local Government reform recommendations are spread over 4 areas.

The areas are as follows:

In summary, the proposals for reform are—

Reform Area 1 | Stronger Council Member Capacity and Better Conduct

  • YouTube clip

Reform Area 2 | Lower Costs and Enhanced Financial Accountability

  • YouTube clip

Reform Area 3 | Efficient and Transparent Local Government Representation

  • YouTube clip

Reform Area 4 | Simpler Regulation

  • YouTube clip

While this plays out they are also awaiting the report from the Productivity Commission. When their report is received it will sit alongside the survey results to inform their 1st draft bill.

I will be contributing, not just through the submission from Unley Council, but on my own volition. Watch out for future blogs for my thoughts.

The Ultimate Council Conflict of Interest. The role of Councillor itself.

Cr Don Palmer. Providing Local Leadership and Working For YiuWe hear much these days of conflict of interest. I have written about it. The media often have a feature on it. But what is the ultimate conflict of interest.

 

Following on from my blog post yesterday questioning who am I let us examine the role of an elected member. Not so much therefore, who am I but, what is my role in Council.

 

The fact is the conflict of responsibilities of your elected members is the ultimate conflict of interest.

 

The Local Government Act defines two clear, but conflicting roles.

The first of these is to be a member of the governing body of Council. The second is to represent the interests of residents and rate payers.

A conflict of roles if ever there was one.

 

 

Being a member of the governing body is alike to being a member of a company board of directors.

 

Being a member of a board of directors requires me to attend regular “director’s” meetings and participate in the deliberations of the council. As part of this role, I have the responsibility to keep the council’s objectives and policies under review. To ensure that they are appropriate and effective.

Importantly, I am also responsible to manage the council’s income and expenditure. This means keeping the efficiency and effectiveness of its service delivery under review.

This responsibility is only in concert with my fellow councillors. I cannot act alone. Neither can a small subgroup act alone.

Contrary to this responsibility however is my second defined role.

 

As a person elected to the council I must represent the interests of residents and ratepayers. I am required to provide community leadership and guidance. I must facilitate communication between the community and the council.

This means I must represent you and advocate for you to the Council.

This is a role many in the community do not understand. A role they don’t take advantage of.

As conflicting as these roles may sound they are also mutually complementary.

 

In order to represent you and advocate for you I must do so for all. For that to happen I must be conscious of the greater good. The good of our whole community.

So, even if what you seek advocacy for conflicts with your neighbours, I must seek to give you the best possible chance to be heard.

And that I will continue to strive to do.

Who Am I? Ever Played that Game. Sometimes I feel I am playing it now.

Have you ever played the game who am I. It has always been a fun game.

 

Cr Don Palmer. Providing Local Leadership and Working For YiuRemember putting a notice on your head and asking people yes/no questions and trying to whittle down to find out who you are. A game I remember playing as a kid. It was a game too, I recall, being the focus of a TV game a few decades back.

A similar game too, I recall being played on talk back radio. Always fun. Always entertaining.

.

I found myself playing that game this week with one on my rate payers. A rate payer who did not understand my role. I therefore found myself trying to explain my role rather than focus on her concerns. This conversation naturally prompted me to consider writing this blog post.

Another Councillor explained to me this morning that she too has had a similar recent experience. This of course has convinced me of the need to put pen to paper.

In both cases the person with whom we were engaging believed we were employees of Council. This is NOT the case.

 

Who am I then? I am an elected member. An elected member of your Council.

 

Importantly, I am not an employee of Council. I am not a manager. Nor do I contract with Council.

I am an elected member, a Councillor. Elected by you last November as your representative on Council. Elected to be one of thirteen Councillors (including your Mayor) forming the City of Unley Council.

The next question is what is my responsibility and what did you elect me to do. For the answer to that question I ask you to watch out for a follow-up blog post.

A council, in turn, is established to provide for government and management of its area at the local level. Watch out for future blog posts on this too.

Another Award for King William Road

I am proud to announce yet another award for King William Road. This, primarily inspired by our consultation, while a few continue to denigrate us for our consultation.

Bad news sells papers. We have all  heard that. That may well spell the storey behind a few naysayers dominating the media agenda still around King William Road. To be fair, the media have in recent times, tried to present a balanced storey.

We have seen a number of traders reported recently as commending Council on our efforts. On our communication, on our consultation.

That said there has been no reporting on the positive of another award for King William Road. The second award we have received, both focusing on our excellent consultation on the project.

The 2019 South Australian Landscape Architecture Awards recognised Design King William. Minister Pisoni, Unley’s own local member of State Parliament, presented the award.

The following commentary/ reasoning was provided for our award:

Urban Design Landscape Architecture Award
Design King William by City of Unley with Communikate, Village Well and Outerspace Landscape Architects

“This innovative community co-design approach has set a benchmark for community engagement and urban design planning. This ambitious project was completed within a tight timeline yet provided an ‘open door’ policy to ensure that all stakeholders and the wider community were fully involved for the duration of the project. The success of the project is evident in its high levels of community engagement and Council support, and extremely positive feedback received on the final design outcomes. The jury eagerly anticipates the construction of the planned works in the near future.”

Regular readers of my blogs will recall a previous award I reported on back on the 30th June.

Both awards demonstrate that the City of Unley has conducted a genuine, inclusive engagement process to contribute to meaningful outcomes for our communities.

Councils Overlooked Heritage for Decades, according to the ‘Tiser.

The Councils Overlooked Heritage for Decades, according to the ‘Tiser. This is a headline suggesting Councils have been derelict in their heritage responsibilities.

COUNCILS OVERLOOK HERITAGE FOR DECADESIs the ‘Tiser’ correct with this article? If you have a subscription you can read it here.

The article in today’s Advertiser has included the City of Unley in it’s list. Consequently, this (by default) suggests we too have overlooked Heritage for decades.

.

Preserving our heritage is a hot topic right now, a concern shared by many. The SA Planning Commission, as they undertake the revision of our planning laws, share this concern.

So! Is our heritage at risk and have Councils been under-performing in recognising and promoting heritage properties for protection from demolition?

 

Our heritage deserves protection and is at risk.

The risk to our heritage I have already spoken about, in a blog post titled “Heritage at Risk”. Or is it?”.

I did attend the meeting noted in that blog post. The Commission Chairman at that meeting assured me that they share our concerns.

This was comforting to hear. As comforting as that may be, they can only produce what they are given. Consequently, this means the community (including you) need to let them know your views and concerns.

 

Have Councils been derelict in assessing and nominating heritage in their development plans? The City of Unley I suggest have been diligent, rather than derelict in assessing and nominating heritage plans in their development plan.

Today’s media article is sort of correct. They however did not recognise how significant such an exercise is. A lengthy process that requires significant resourcing. Resourcing that your rates fund.

They identified only the start of a process. As a result, not the completion. In addition, failing to recognise a lengthy process that requires significant resourcing. Resourcing that your rates fund.

The City of Unley did conduct a broad ‘Heritage’ and ‘Character’ survey of the whole City in 2005. As a result, using the results of the survey, this led to conducting the Unley Heritage Research Study from 2006 through to 2012. This provided a comprehensive evaluation of potential individual heritage places combined with a review of existing places.

Importantly, these studies were then used to inform the Local Heritage Places Development Plan Amendment.

This DPA was given Interim Effect in January 2013. The final DPA was authorised in January 2014.

 

Draft Clarence Park LATM awaits your final input

The Draft Clarence Park LATM, which is in response to your observations last year, awaits your final input. Please therefore, let us know your thoughts.

 

You should have received a letter from Council seeking your response to Draft Clarence Park LATM recommendations. To ensure we have the right solutions to the problems you identified, we need you to respond to this letter.

Draft Clarence Park LATM

Copy of Draft Clarence Park LATM letter

Please take the time to understand the solutions being offered, and have your say. Your contribution is important to us.

To assist you, there will also be a public meeting on Tuesday 30 July between 5-8 pm  at Clarence Park Community Centre where you can learn more and discuss the proposals with staff.

You can also read the full report at https://yoursay.unley.sa.gov.au/LATM3.

You can reply using the yoursay portal or by emailing council at [email protected] If you prefer you can use the good ol’ fashioned snail mail, or personally hand deliver it to the Unley Civic Centre.

Key areas of the Draft Clarence Park LATM identified in our ward are:

  • Pedestrian safety at the tram stop on East Ave and adjacent Rise & Grind
  • Rat running through Clarence Park
  • Cycling safety on Churchill Ave
  • Changing the traffic priority on the Ripon/ Homer/Lorraine Ave intersection
  • Improving disabled parking on Curzon Ave
  • Further parking restrictions in Chelmsford, Allenby, Fairfax and Argyle Avenues
  • Restricted parking at the entrance to Langdon Ave
  • Improving cycling and pedestrian safety in East Ave

If you have any thoughts on any of these please let us know. Once we receive your thoughts, we will review the LATM.

Council will take on board your thoughts. We will then consider ratifying the LATM, maybe in September, including any changes prompted by you.

Once ratified, high priority items will commence as early as later this year. Medium and low priority items will be considered in next year’s budget.

Improved Parking in King William Road

Look out for improved parking in the King William Road Precinct. The redevelopment of King William Road will provide improved parking, as opposed to reduced parking as promoted by the Media.

.

Improved parking will result from the redevelopment of King William Road. The media however is correct. We are reducing on-street parking. This is fact.

We are sacrificing them in order to provide the outdoor dining, the seating rest areas and the trees you requested. We could have provided 20 more car parks by not providing the elements you asked for in the design.

So, how is this an improvement you ask?

The media have not picked up on what we are doing to improve car parking. We will be directing drivers to parks currently not being used.

There are over 400 off-street car parks available. Most of these car parks are not being used however. Car parks that many, maybe most don’t know exist.

Some areas are being used quite well, others however unfortunately aren’t. Indeed some car park areas are simply not being  used at all.

.

Council is addressing this as part of the redevelopment. We are going digital.  Using Smart City answers. In other words, we are using smart technology to direct drivers to the available carparks.

 

Are you familiar with the use of smart technology used in carparking stations? We will be using smart technology to direct you individual carpark spaces that are available by way of digital signs.

This technology works on the use of a sensor embedded in the paving of the individual carpark. When covered by a car it triggers a red carpark in use sign. Conversely, when there is no car, the sensor triggers a green carpark available sign.

City of Casey Smart Sign provides improved parking

City of Casey Smart Sign

For King William Road we will have signs that show the number of carparks available behind various shops. Signs which will be located at the junction of King William Road and the lane leading to that carpark.

Signs such as the City of Casey sign shown above.

Why Pavers on King William Road

Why pavers on King William Road. The current public conversation is asking that question.

King-William-Road-Concept-IllustrationWhy pavers on King William Road? Because that is what you asked for. Certainly that is what I heard you saying. Accordingly, it influenced my vote. With a unanimous vote it must be what the rest of the Councillors heard too.

You made this a paramount request of us from the very beginning of the design process. You were telling us the pavers are what makes King William Road unique. That the street came alive back in the 80’s after that Red Scheme project because of the pavers.

In response to that prevailing observation you were telling us, we provided you with three different approaches to paving the street. You chose the one we are providing.

The three choices are shown on the Design King William website. They were as follows:

  • All paved.
  • Bitumen Paved.
  • A Hybrid bitumen and paved road

Option 1 was for a paved road, paved footpath, paved parking. The bitumen option included paving to the parking bays and the footpath. The 3rd option was for a Hybrid. A bitumen paved road with brick infills at the intersections. It also included paving to the parking bays and the footpaths.

You told us overwhelmingly that you wanted option 1. 54% of you wanted this option. A clear majority. The option we are therefore  implementing.

30% of you wanted the hybrid version. This was a compromise solution if you want and it was your 2nd preference.

Only 16% of you favoured the bitumen option. That is 1 in 6 of you.

And yet this is not what we are hearing. What we are hearing is that this is the way we should have gone with the 2nd Option, the least preferred option previously. We are hearing that the disruption would have been less with this option. Therefore we should have listened to those who did not want pavers.

Sorry!

We listened to the majority. The significant majority. I am sure the majority will enjoy it.

City of Unley Transforming King William Road

A far cry from the Killing King William Road message out there, as reported in my last blog post. Those in the know, know council is actually transforming King William Road.

 

Our community asked us to do something about the troubles being experienced in King William Road. They asked us to save the street.

The street was in trouble. This therefore was our prime motivator for doing what we are  doing.

In addition, we learnt a few years ago (after conducting some core testing) that the structure of the road needed repair. This was something we could not avoid. It was something we simply had to do.

Repairing the road we therefore saw as a great opportunity to address the concerns of our community. And from day one, when Design King William was born, our communities’ views were the paramount contributor to the solution we found.

 

Claims by a few that we did not consult them are simply not true. Our consultation was extensive. Indeed, so well done and so extensive, the City of Unley was commended for our engagement. We received a 2018 Form Innovation Award.

 

King-William-Road-Concept-IllustrationThe project commenced with seeking the views of traders and residents alike on what they wanted out of a redeveloped street. Inspired by their responses, we then asked them both about their preferred road surface, what kerbs and footpaths they wanted, the extent of landscaping and on street parking.

Then, armed with this information, we put a proposed design before them. A design incorporating what they had been telling us.  We had overwhelming approval from them for this design.

 

Subsequent to winning the award and Council unanimously approving the design we continued the consultation with Traders.

 

This consultation covered how and when we would carry out the redevelopment. What time of year. Whether we would work day and night. Whether we would stage it or not. How we would stage it.

The program we are currently conducting is a direct result of that lengthy and ongoing engagement.

We are doing what they asked for. We are transforming King William Road. In addition, we are also doing it at the time of their preference, and in the manner they asked us to do it.

I have to question anyone therefore (who claims to represent our community) and who disagrees with my observations. Where they were when we were engaging in extensive consultation with our community. As someone actually elected to represent our community, I have not heard from any who have been paraded this week by the current media announcements bemoaning what we are doing.

Terrible Council is Killing King William Road

The Unley community has been pounded this week by a singular message. That terrible Council is killing King William Road. Destroying the businesses.

 

The focus has been consistent. Each day a new storey reinforcing the message awaits us as we get out of bed in the morning.

Amongst other claims, we have a prominent landlord in the street quoted as slamming Council for destroying the street. In addition, we have a business relocating allegedly after just one day of construction activity. A business who I understand made that commitment some 6 months ago. And then, a claim apparently on behalf of a Ratepayer Association we don’t know claiming the people of Unley no longer have confidence in the Council’s CEO.

Killing King WilliamRight now, the road certainly looks like it is ground zero. It certainly does look like a bomb has exploded.

You have to ask. How could this happen? How could a Council be allowed to run rampant over its community and not consult with them or listen to what they are saying.

Do you believe this rhetoric. I hope not. How about some truth coming into the conversation to avoid the street falling over purely and simply because of the doom and gloom being portrayed.

 

Let’s get one thing straight from the get go. It is not true the terrible Council is killing King William Road. They are transforming King William Road, giving it its best chance of survival.

 

The project was conceived because of the doom and gloom that has surrounded the street over the last (say) ten years. Many a long term business along the street have left the street during that time. New businesses have also come and gone.

The facts were clear. We needed to act. The street needed transforming. Transforming the street is precisely what we believe we are doing.

We are doing what we have been asked by our community to do. We are also doing it in then manner they requested. For details explaining this check out my next blog post, “Transforming King William Road”. Try also getting the facts from the Design King William website.

Budget lifted 0.15% to cover Waste to Landfill Levy

Budget lifted 0.15% to cover the Waste to Landfill Levy was the decision last night by Council. A unanimous decision made after much reasoned and considered debate last night.

Deputy Mayor Peter Hughes presented Council with an alternative budget position at our traditional budget meeting.  An alternative to the one we presented you just a couple of months back. His alternate motion was to lift the rate increase from 2.1% to 2.25%. An increase of 0.15%.

We learnt last night the impact of the 40% waste to landfill levy on our budget. The levy would add $ 115,000 to our costs. Lifting the rate will cover around half this.

The Budget lifted 0.15% will raise an extra $ 57,000. With some 26,000 rate payers this means an increase of $ 2.00 for the year to each ratepayer.

With such a small individual contribution we could have considered passing on the whole impact. We chose instead to show some leadership and restrict the impact on you.

Like last year, with the China Sword, we opted to share the impact. We are committing ourselves to finding $ 57,000 of savings over the year.

We would like to think we are showing, yet again, our ability to set responsible and considered budgets. Being financially responsible as I promoting during the last election campaign. This, in the face of a Government promoting otherwise while throwing significant last minute surprises at us.

Even with the extra, the rate increase is 0.65% below what it could have been under the government’s proposed rate capping agenda.

I am proud of this Council.

It is showing itself to be a Council that takes their responsibility seriously. Just seven months in, it is a council that is following in the footsteps of the Unley Councils of recent times.

We are a Council I believe you can rely on to take the responsible decisions. To be fiscally responsible.

Recycling Industry Inquiry Underway

Parliament’s Environment, Resources and Development Committee is about to conduct a recycling industry inquiry.

They will investigate and report on the current crisis in waste management that exists in South Australia.

Green Bin (weekly)

Green bin every week, not the blue

They will obviously consider how China’s National Sword Policy has impacted on us.  Accordingly, they will explore how South Australia has responded to China’s recent restriction on its importation of recyclable material.

They will however also examine current policy and legislative frameworks that govern resource recovery in this State. This will hopefully examine the potential for desirable reforms.

.

I suggest that the problem is not China Sword. Not directly at least. All China Sword has done is highlight a structural deficiency in our waste handling process.

The structural deficiency in our waste handling process needs to be addressed.

Rather than focus on what we can’t control, we must look into what we can control. This requires looking at what we do and what we don’t do. It requires us to determine what we can do better. It also requires us to recognise what we should stop doing.

The Environment, Resources and Development Committee will surely look at the ability of our industry to innovate. Developing an industry capable of achieving the much heralded circular economy is essential.

Whatever happens with the Recycling Industry Inquiry, we must change our kerbside collection system.

We must review the efficiency and effectiveness of the kerbside-collection three bin system. This is the foundation of our system. Get this wrong and we will not solve any problems.

Contamination of the yellow bin collections is the reason China is rejecting our waste. If we do not address this contamination we are expecting our industry to do what China can’t or won’t.

The blue bin goes to land fill and is the dearest to process. Because it is collected weekly, it encourages incorrect use.

I therefore confirm again my belief that we must focus on what we put in our bins. The green bin should be a weekly collection. If it were, items incorrectly put in the blue bin (red in some councils) would be appropriately redirected to the green bin. If it grows it goes.

Hypocritical State Government Deals Savage Blow to Local Government

Our hypocritical State Government has dealt Local Government a Savage  Blow. They have done this by raising the waste levy by 40%. Compounding this, they do it in the week Councils are due to bring down their budgets.

Green Bin (weekly)

Green bin every week, not the blue

Yes! The same hypocritical State Government who claims we (local government) are incapable of keeping council rates at an affordable level. The levy, which is paid on all dumping to land fill, has been lifted in the State budget from $ 100.00 per ton to $ 140.00 per ton. An increase of 40%.

Wait a minute, CPI for the year sits at 2.9%. This means the waste levy impost is 13 times inflation. And they tell us our rates should be capped because we are irresponsible financial mangers.

The timing could not be worse. Local Governments this week are due to confirm their annual business plans and budgets this week for the upcoming year.

 

The treasurer, unashamedly he advised at the SA Press Club luncheon today, says this will encourage Councils to be more efficient in waste reduction.

An incentive to get rubbish away from landfill. But will he be using this money to assist us. No. He will be using it to solve sand drift problems at West Beach and Henley Beach. A non waster levy issue to say the least.

There is little we can do to reduce landfill when the blue bin continues to be the bin that is picked up weekly. Until they legislate for the green bin to be picked up weekly and the blue bin fortnightly the amount going to landfill will not reduce.

 

We are now forced to conduct a last minute review of our business plan and our budget.

We now need to work out what the impact of this increase will have on us. A last minute rush to ensure it does not cause us budget grief. Once we know the impact, we will then be faced with making a decision to do one of three things:

  • Do nothing. This may be appropriate if the cost increase is not too large.
  • Reduce operating costs by an amount similar to the increase. This will mean reconsidering our priorities. This could mean significantly reducing the scope of a project or even eliminating one or more projects we were committing ourselves to.
  • Increase rates at the last minute to recover the extra.

Please keep us in your thoughts as we deal with this conundrum.

Serious Local Government Reform

Serious Local Government Reform is about to commence with an inquiry into local government costs and efficiency.

The State Government has asked the South Australian Productivity Commission to investigate local government. They have asked them to examine the trends in council costs and the efficiency and the drivers behind these trends. In order to get it right, they will consult local government and other key stakeholders.

This is all good news for me as I indicated in my blog back on May 24.

The LGA is seeking feedback from member councils to inform a sector-wide submission. Therefore, they will be hosting a workshop session with the Productivity Commission.

On your behalf, I intend to attend this session. As a result, I expect to get a good understanding of the approach they will be taking.

The inquiry will examine trends in the costs of local government and the drivers of these costs. It will also develop and analyse measures of efficiency resulting from the trends they have discovered. Likewise, it will identify ways that might be used by councils to measure and improve performance.

The exercise will result in the Commission providing advice and recommendations on options for improving efficiency in local government operations.

Council Rates AnalysisAs the table shows, your rates have increased well ahead of the CPI. They have also risen in excess of the LGPI (Local Government Price Index).

The Commission will identify the drivers of the increase in your rates.

This may include changes to the scope of services provided by councils. It will also identify changes in the environment within which councils operate. Likewise it will reveal ratepayer preferences for greater levels of service.

A final report is expected to be ready for submitting to the Parliament by November this year. I look forward to the results of this serious approach to Serious Local Government Reform.

A rate rise of 2.1% is set to be approved by the City of Unley

The City of Unley will approve their 2019-20 budget at this month’s formal Council meeting. I expect us to approve a rate rise of 2.1% at this meeting.

A 2.9% increase would have applied under the Government’s proposed rate capping. This demonstrates, with many councils following our example, that councils are responsible and able to manage their financial affairs.

In theory therefore the rates you pay will increase likewise by 2.1%.

Changes in property values, if consistent across a local government area, do not change what council rates you pay. It is therefore incorrect to say an across the board increase in property values means Council makes a killing.

If you have read my last blog post however, you will know that this year changes in property values however will be erratic to say the  least. This means some of us will pay more, some less.

Two factors influence the calculation of the rates you pay. The budget set by Council and the capital value of the property you own, as set by the Valuer General.

The process of assessing rates for an oncoming year commences with Council setting their budget. The valuer general then advises council what they have calculated is the total value of all rate-able properties in the council area.

The budget is then divided by the total property value to strike what we call “the rate in the $”. In my time on Council, this “rate in the $” has gone down each year.

When the value of your property (as valued by the Valuer General) moves at the same rate as the collective or total then your rates will increase by the amount of the budget increase set by council. If the value of your property increases less than the collective, your rates will increase by less than council’s budget increase. Likewise, if it escalates above the collective, then your increase will exceed the council budget increase.

Hopefully you appreciate a rate rise of 2.1%, and the services they provide you.

Valuer General to cause stress to rate payers in Unley

Many City of Unley rate payers will be distressed when they receive their first rates notice for 2019-20.

 

Office of the Valuer-General

Office of the Valuer-General

Not I must say because of anything Council has or has not done. Their grief will be due to changes to the way their properties are valued by the Valuer General.

.

While Council looks set to strike a 2.1% increase, the rates you pay may not reflect this. Changes in property values could show a different picture. We could see rates increase or decrease by up to 50% and more.

In other words, changes both ways. Significant changes.

Yes. There will be winners and losers. Some rate payers will be paying more than they traditionally have. Some significantly more.

Others, on the other hand, will be paying less. Some significantly less.

I expect Council will wear the brunt of any anger that may occur. This, even though the Valuer General is accepting the responsibility.

You will be receiving the rates notice from us. You must pay us. Many don’t recognise the value of your property is not set by Council, but by the Valuer General.

Concerned about the significance of the changes, the Valuer General briefed Council last week.

The Valuer General have advised they will be writing to all those property owners whose valuation will increase by 15% or more. There will be many however under this threshold that won’t know until they receive their first rates notice.

This is all (would you believe) due to an attempt to make the valuation of properties fairer. The Valuer General is changing how they calculate the property value. Factors not previously considered will now be used when assessing a property’s value.

These changes will affect mainly commercial properties, not residential properties. I expect therefore that changes in residential property rates thankfully will be minimal.

A fairer system of valuation that will not be seen that way this year.

Ombudsman Code of Conduct Concerns focuses on the trivial not serious.

The State Ombudsman, Wayne Lines, has spoken up this week on a topic that goes to the heart of one of the central reasons for Local Government reform. His code of conduct concerns is one area that the Local Government Industry is pushing hard to see changed.

 

We need tougher sanctions against those who are guilty of serious breeches. More on that however in a later blog post.

His code of conduct concerns however is asking Councils to stop the silliness. To stop making claims of a trivial nature.

Wayne Lines-OmbudsmanIn recent history there have been many reports of elected members making frivolous claims against one another. This brings the industry into disrepute. These claims take up the resources of the Ombudsman. His time can be better spent on the more serious. The ICAC likewise.

Trouble is the Act requires members to lay claims against others they believe to be contravening the Act. Failure to so do can cause a claim being made against them.

Not long after the Office of Public Integrity was formed, I remember him saying to a group of councillors that he has no interest in pursuing such. Legal advice however has interpreted the law literally. Ever since the industry and the ICAC have been calling for changes.

Here at the City of Unley we hopefully have a mature and adult approach to elected member behaviour. The current Council is working through a charter of behaviour that we will all sign up to when complete.

The Governments proposed probe through the Productivity Commissioner into local government should look into this.