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How can local government continue to meet the needs of residents and provide excellence in services, and still stay on budget? Do services need to be point scored to be considered as core essentials? What are the best ways to drive efficiency? The pressures on local government to get key investment, resource allocation and delivery model decisions right have never been greater. Increasing demand for services, rapid technology change and the constant requirement to invest in asset construction and renewal are forcing councils to reconsider traditional business models. In responding to these pressures and re-examining the way the business of local government is run, leadership is contending with three key factors:
  1. Limitations on traditional revenue sources
Pressures on local government have been further compounded by the Commonwealth decision in the 2014-15 Budget to pause the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants to local government. The Productivity Commission recognizes that local government is near its maximum capacity to generate its own revenue. Victoria has also seen the introduction of ‘Fair Go rate capping’.
  1. The change in residents’ expectations and the move to customer-centricity
The arrival of social media and other new technologies has meant that constituents are not afraid to express themselves vocally if they believe that issues are not being addressed or council services fall short. This is aligned to the growing perception of residents as customers, rather than merely ratepayers. Customers expect the same levels of service from government as from commercial transactions.
  1. New and rapidly advancing technologies
The landscape of available technologies is changing at an increasing rate. Council officers delivering customer-facing services and those in the back office both need to drive efficiency and providing value for money while stretching the dollar further.   KPMG also sees a number of other factors that individual councils must address: Ageing technology and under-investment Many councils currently support a large number of outdated IT systems, set within a complex and inefficient infrastructure that is not keeping pace with current practices. This limits their ability to grow. In addition, the capability and operating models within internal IT departments have not evolved and can no longer meet local government demands. Historical planning methods Most councils’ approach to planning has not adapted to the changing environment.It has not caught up with ongoing development and is largely still run on a functional or organisational level, rather than being service-led. But it is service-led planning that will enable strategic direction setting, realistic cost assessments, individual staff KPIs, and appropriate funding for technology or outsourcing.   To deal with this new landscape, we suggest considering the following key actions: Place the customer at the centre As the most granular tier of government, councils have the greatest capacity to identify and respond to emerging community needs. Across Australia, local governments are striving to move towards customer-centric models of service delivery that anticipate and respond to community needs in a sustainable and agile manner. Re-think business as usual Changing community expectations requires a continual process of self-reflection and evaluation by councils on the way they do business. This requires fresh thinking, of challenging the way things have always been done. This involves:
  • redesigning operating models and organisational structures
  • adopting best practice processes
  • driving cultural change
  • adopting different and innovative methods for engaging key stakeholders
  • considering alternative approaches and models for service delivery
  • critically examining every component of the organisation.
Revisit and reshape IT Councils need to invest in the creation of a future-proof IT architecture, incorporating modern technology principles and practices such as cloud, ‘As a Service’ delivery mofdels, business and process led specification, and agile development methods. With today’s shift towards cloud-based software as a service solution, systems that were previously out of reach are now affordable to local government. The higher rate of change also requires a greater level of innovation and adjustment in what systems offer to residents. There is an opportunity to take a fresh look at systems, and to challenge the assumptions that local government is highly specialised, with only limited options available to it. Think collaboratively Local governments can no longer afford to only think locally. Regional partners at a local, state and federal level are fundamental to the achievement of better social and economic outcomes within a fiscally constrained environment. KPMG sees heightened collaboration with like-minded councils around investment in IT service profiling and reviews, operational shared services and innovative knowledge sharing. Leveraging regional and national partnerships is critical to ensuring local investment can be amplified through complementary investments from regional and national partners. Have an innovation agenda Innovation is already on the agenda of most councils, but open and effective innovation management requires nurturing and ongoing development. One area of innovation is what is ‘Smart Cities’. Underpinned by emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and ubiquitous connectivity, alongside advances in cognitive computing and machine learning (AI), Smart Cities can enable greater citizen engagement, improve quality of life, provide opportunities for economic development and unlock efficiencies in service delivery.   Does all of this seem daunting? It needn’t be. Challenges are simply opportunities under another guise. As we approach 2020, local councils can take stock, re-evaluate and prepare. They have every chance to get ready for the dramatic shifts and changes in the years ahead. *Toni Jones is a Partner, Enterprise Advisory, for KPMG. Developed in collaboration with KPMG Partner Paul Low and KPMG Directors Paul Francis and Michael Alf. [post_title] => How KPMG sees the future of local government [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => kpmg-sees-future-local-government [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-13 08:45:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-12 21:45:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28252 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28061 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-09-18 15:20:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-18 05:20:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_28064" align="alignnone" width="300"] ALGA President Mayor David O'Loughlin.[/caption] Mayor David O'Loughlin Warnings in the Victorian Parliament this week about the financial struggles facing small rural councils should trouble us all. Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) President Mary Lalios gave a gloomy but accurate assessment of smaller councils’ inability to deal with lower levels of Commonwealth funding and a 2 per cent cap on rate increases. Similar concerns have arisen in my home state of South Australia, where the Liberal Opposition Party has said it will peg council rates if it wins government at the state election due next March. NSW councils have laboured under rate capping since 1978, and last November were told by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (which sets the allowable rate increase) that they could increase their rates for the next financial year by no more than 1.5 per cent. IPART said the 1.5 per cent figure was fair given low inflation and slow wage growth. But as my colleague Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said at the time, IPART’s conclusions ignored the 1.8 per cent increase in CPI, the equivalent increase in employment benefits and non-residential building costs greater than 1.5 per cent. And he pointed out, rightly in my view, that the rage peg was “a financial noose which continued to tighten” around councils and local communities. Yet surely it would be a brave observer who concluded that the Sydney market would be overly sensitive to rate rises when the same market is still growing despite the largest increase in property costs and rents in Australia in recent years. Yet there's no sign of an IPART equivalent seeking to intervene on rents or property prices. Consider this: Sydney councils have been rate-pegged for the longest duration in the nation, and many of them now impose the highest developer charges in the nation for new homes. The Sydney market has the longest running housing supply shortfall and, as a direct consequence, the highest average rents in the nation. Perhaps it's just me, but in my mind, these factors are intrinsically linked. What is wrong with Councils determining their own level of rates? After all, as the recent NSW council elections demonstrated, we are ultimately accountable to our voters, and if we get the balance wrong we risk being thrown out of office. It's a proven mechanism – it's called democracy. Meanwhile, the well-intentioned but unelected IPART need never worry about facing the voters about the short and long-term impacts of rate pegging. This week Cr Lalios told the Victorian Parliament that capital spending in small rural shires would decline by 30 per cent from 2016-20, with the three-year freeze in Financial Assistance Grants, the cancellation of the Country Roads and Bridges Program in 2105, and  the two per cent rate cap contributing substantially to that reduction. The immediate consequences of rate capping, particularly for councils with limited access to other revenue like parking fees, fines and charges, are an increase in debt levels, a drop in service levels, or a combination of both. Over the longer term, however, that’s unsustainable. The Commonwealth’s “efficiency dividends’’ show year-on-year budget cuts imposed on departments and agencies inevitably lead to reduced or cancelled public services. Why would Local Government be any different? Councils have the narrowest revenue base of the three levels of government, yet the heaviest roads and infrastructure burden. Rate caps are the financial equivalent of a ball and chain. And it is ratepayers and local businesses who are hit hardest by truncated services, deteriorating infrastructure, and a lack of capacity to innovate and respond to emerging community needs. Councils are already attempting to offset the double whammy of rate caps and lower Commonwealth funding by using collaborative procurement, improved asset management, and by developing cost-sharing partnerships and other options – but this may not be enough to change the fundamentals. As I advocate for a return to sustainable federal funding, I am drawing a clear link to the call for an end to rates caps in favour of local decision-making. I make it clear that for every dollar councils are unable to raise locally, they will be looking for it elsewhere – with the Commonwealth a primary target. Mayor David O’Loughlin is the president of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).   [post_title] => Small councils to go hungry [post_excerpt] => Warnings about the financial struggles facing small rural councils should trouble us all. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => small-councils-go-hungry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-19 09:33:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-18 23:33:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://governmentnews.com.au/?p=28061 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27968 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-09-08 09:21:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-07 23:21:52 [post_content] => Helen Masters Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones have been a source of concern for local governments and regulatory authorities. While there are restrictions on the use of drones in public spaces for recreation, councils have a strong business case on the benefits of using drones to maintain and manage public amenities and physical assets. Drone technologies work with Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software to deliver insights that go beyond basic maintenance and security activities. As local councils face tighter budgets, the biggest challenge is to have a hold of how facilities and assets that are spread over land, sea or in distant or awkward locations are performing. The synergy between drones and EAM helps improve the inspection process and allows councils to document asset conditions from public spaces such as parklands to building, facilities and infrastructure in an automated and more strategic manner. Brisbane City Council has demonstrated how drone images have been used to conduct inspections on council buildings, monitor wildlife populations in parks and to evaluate the potential for turf and event management. The use of drones will allow councils to assess if their public spaces will need pest or weed control in addition to regular maintenance work. Councils operating in regional or remote locations are often challenged with managing assets in places that may be difficult or dangerous to reach. At other times, these areas could be difficult to access such as the rooftop of building structures where machinery is situated. Instead of scaffolding and manually inspecting equipment on tall buildings, images from drones can provide technicians with valuable viewpoints and details about critical assets without having to physically attend to a site. Expanding the lifecycle of facilities and infrastructure requires monitoring performance and conducting preventative maintenance of each council asset. This is particularly important for critical infrastructure that cannot fall over such as security systems, drainage systems or public roads. With drones, the ability to deliver high-resolution imagery helps maintenance crews determine where to focus their attention and resources. Going beyond photographic images, drone technology can even supply infrared and x-ray images to detect structural issues or dangerous leaks in an environment that may be potentially unsafe for humans. These advancements ensure drones have an embedded role in facility management, fleet management and asset management by expanding the capabilities of field crews. Over time, physical inspections can be replaced with drones capturing historical images for real-time assessments. With the widespread adoption of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems in local council buildings, a drone with infrared thermal-imaging features can survey solar panels to identify damaged panels for maintenance. The use of drones alone only solves one part of the challenge faced by today’s asset managers. To achieve the most of this technology, data and imagery must be paired with a sophisticated asset management system that incorporates historical records, maintenance standards and other sensor information to assess conditions and determine maintenance requirements. This includes the identification of corrosion, detecting hairline cracks, spillages or leaks, to perform dilapidation assessments or land surveys. Data collected from each of these areas must be assessed and captured in real-time by a receiving asset management program. Asset managers would be able to cross-reference the condition of assets today in real time against the condition of assets from previous images or sensor readings. Through this process, they can determine the next course of action in the asset management lifecycle by comparing this data against manufacturing or industry standards. A comprehensive asset management strategy that includes drones for inspections provides a meaningful alternative strategy to traditional asset management. Such solutions have the ability to shift operations and maintenance processes from a reactive to proactive mode. Bringing drones, sensors and comprehensive asset management solutions together can help councils extend the useful life of their critical assets. As budgets and resources become increasingly scarce in local governments, drones could be the solution for councils looking to proactively manage their critical and valuable assets. Helen Masters is the vice president and managing director of Infor South Asia-Pacific and ASEAN. Footnote: US futurist Thomas Frey, speaking on the future of drones at the World of Drones Congress in Brisbane predicts there will be one billion drones worldwide by 2030 (in this he includes land- and water-based UAV as well).   [post_title] => Local councils and drones [post_excerpt] => Councils have a strong business case for using drones to maintain and manage public amenities and assets. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => getting-local-councils-board-drones [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-08 10:22:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-08 00:22:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27968 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27804 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-10 09:12:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-09 23:12:50 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27806" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo courtesy of SBS.[/caption] Cristy Clark, Southern Cross University The New South Wales state government has passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city. In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:
"… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law."
As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.
Further reading: Ban on sleeping rough does nothing to fix the problems of homelessness

Real problem is lack of affordable housing

In contrast to her Melbourne counterpart, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had been adopting a more human-rights-based approach to resolving the challenges presented by the Martin Place camp. After negotiating with camp organisers, Moore made it clear her council would not disperse the camp until permanent housing was found for all of the residents. As she pointed out:
"You can’t solve homelessness without housing — what we urgently need is more affordable housing and we urgently need the New South Wales government to step up and do their bit."
It’s no secret that housing affordability in both Sydney and Melbourne has reached crisis point. And homelessness is an inevitable consequence of this. But we have seen little real action from government to resolve these issues. The NSW government has been offering people temporary crisis accommodation or accommodation on the outskirts of the city. This leaves them isolated from community and without access to services. In contrast, these inner-city camps don’t just provide shelter, food, safety and community; they also send a powerful political message to government that it must act to resolve the housing affordability crisis. Having established well-defined rules of conduct, a pool of shared resources and access to free shelter and food, the Martin Place camp can be seen as part of the commons movement. This movement seeks to create alternative models of social organisation to challenge the prevailing market-centric approaches imposed by neoliberalism and to reclaim the Right to the City.
Further reading: Suburbanising the centre: the government’s anti-urban agenda for Sydney

We should be uncomfortable

It is not surprising that right-wing pundits have described these camps as “eyesores” or that they make NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian “completely uncomfortable”. The breach of human rights these camps represent, and the challenge they pose to the current system, should make people uncomfortable. Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has very limited legal protections for human rights. In this context, actions like the Martin Place and Flinders Street camps are one of the few options available to victims of systemic injustice to exercise their democratic right to hold government to account. In seeking to sweep this issue under the carpet, both the City of Melbourne and the NSW government are not only further breaching the right to adequate housing, they are also trying to silence political protest. It is clear from Moore’s demands, and the NSW government’s own actions, that the Martin Place camp is working to create pressure for action. What will motivate the government to resolve this crisis once the camps have been dispersed? As Nelson Mandela argued in 1991 at the ANC’s Bill of Rights Conference:
"A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care, is to use first-generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socioeconomic inequality is entrenched. "We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society."
Mandela’s words were hugely relevant to apartheid South Africa, where a ruling elite had established a deeply racist and unjust system that linked political disenfranchisement and material deprivation. But they also resonate today in Australia where inequality is on the rise – driven in large part by disparities in property ownership. The ConversationHomelessness is a deeply dehumanising force that strips people of access to fundamental rights. The policies that are creating this crisis must be seen as unacceptable breaches of human rights. We need to start asking whether our current economic system is compatible with a truly democratic society. Cristy Clark, Lecturer in Law, Southern Cross University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Clearing homeless camps will make the problem worse [post_excerpt] => "You can’t solve homelessness without housing." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => clearing-homeless-camps-will-make-problem-worse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:22:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:22:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27804 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27748 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-03 17:02:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-03 07:02:40 [post_content] => As the council amalgamations fiasco rolls on, it is becoming apparent that for some of the administrators, being lavished millions of dollars of government funds to spend at their discretion is becoming too strong an attraction to say goodbye to at the coming elections. Standing for elections So far at least two administrators have declared their intention to stand for office at the coming council elections. Queanbeyan-Palerang administrator Tim Overall and Armidale regional administrator Ian Tiley have both confirmed they will be standing for election, despite what many believe is an obvious conflict of interest in their current positions as administrators. The Greens believe the Premier must immediately direct these administrators to withdraw their nominations. Greens MP and local government spokesperson David Shoebridge said: “It’s not unlawful, but there is no doubt that it is deeply inappropriate for administrators to be running for council elections. “These administrators have been given an enormous platform in their local communities over the last 18 months, not to mention access to millions of dollars in council funds and community grants. “There is an obvious conflict of interest if administrators are now putting their hand up to run at the upcoming local government elections, after being given the role of a cashed-up local despot for 18 months. “These individuals have had well over a year to implement their agenda and build on their existing local profile, they should not be able to run at the upcoming elections. “The Liberal National government’s forced amalgamation mess continues to be plagued with dysfunction, and as always they treat residents and ratepayers like mugs. “Any competent government would have outlawed this practice; instead we have the Liberal Nationals in charge. “If the Premier had any respect for local communities, she would immediately direct these administrators to withdraw their nominations for council.” Mr Shoebridge said. In the meantime in Sydney, a NSW Government-appointed administrator is seeking to sell off commercial waste services on the eve of council elections United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said a forcibly-merged council in Sydney’s west has come under fire after it was revealed that it will no longer be able to provide waste services to more than 1,000 commercial and trade customers, following a decision to outsource domestic waste services and sell off its fleet of garbage trucks. Cumberland Council, which was formed following the forced merger of Holroyd Council with Auburn and parts of Parramatta, has admitted in council business papers that as a result of the controversial decision by NSW Government-appointed administrator Viv May to outsource domestic waste services, the council would no longer be able to provide services to commercial clients, either. In June, Mr May awarded a $68 million contract to United Resource Management to run domestic waste services for ten years, Mr Kelly said. “The sale of Council’s fleet means Council will not be able to service its trade and commercial waste customers in the future,” the council document states. Mr May is expected to use the next council meeting — the final one before democracy is restored with the election of new councillors next month — to approve a plan to seek expressions of interest from private waste operators to also take over Cumberland Council’s commercial waste operations. Mr Kelly, whose union represents more than 30,000 local government workers across the state, said the NSW Government needed to urgently intervene to prevent the loss of further services ahead of new councillors being elected. “Just a week after Premier Gladys Berejiklian publicly abandoned the NSW Government’s failed policy of forcibly amalgamating councils, one of her government’s administrators is making a last-ditch effort to sell off community services before council elections can take place next month,” Mr Kelly said. “During the past month, this unelected and unaccountable administrator has locked ratepayers into a costly outsourcing arrangement for the next decade, decided to sell the fleet of garbage collection vehicles, and now intends to do the same with commercial waste services. “There are more than 1,000 businesses that will be impacted by this decision, yet there has been no consultation with them, the broader community, or workers. “Having an appointed administrator making major decisions on the eve of elections, including the awarding of multi-million dollar contracts and the sale of council assets, is completely unacceptable and is one of the reasons communities across the state fought so hard against these forced mergers. “Premier Berejiklian and Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton need to urgently intervene to stop the unelected administrator of Cumberland Council from selling assets, cutting services, or entering contracts, with all decisions instead held over until a democratically elected council retakes the reins,” Mr Kelly said. … and Woollahra wants its money back Waverley Councillor John Wakefield believes the administrator has engaged in building a castle-in-the-air and is keen to seek state government re-imbursement for the costs of the merger. “With the merger called off, we have certainty about the future of the eastern suburbs councils,” Cr Wakefield said. “Let’s now consider what the ratepayers of Waverley have paid to jump through the hoops of the State Government’s mega-merger fantasy.” While Woollahra Council and its Mayor led the opposition against the merger, Waverley Council and its Mayor went about setting up Waverley for the merger with Randwick and an unwilling Woollahra. According to Cr Wakefield, a team of Waverley staff has been working for two years on the merger. Consultants were hired to prepare detailed reports on management and staffing structures under a merged council, facilities and office accommodation requirements, vehicle and truck fleet management issues, maintenance contracts, IT systems integration, and numerous other complex issues requiring detailed plans. “We estimate that well over $500,000 was spent by Waverley Council in direct costs to consultants, while hundreds and hundreds of hours of senior council staff time was occupied in meetings, preparing reports, workshopping the incredible complexity of merging three large organisations together whilst attempting to maintain work levels and resident expectations of service delivery. “Simultaneously and additional to this, Waverley Council under Mayor Betts also hired consultants and allocated a significant amount of staff time on a proposal to re-develop Council’s Library and adjacent buildings. This has been marketed as the ‘Civic Heart’ precinct. It was actually a feasibility study to house a merged council’s town hall. “Mayor Betts was preparing to spend a significant amount of ratepayers money to house a now abandoned merged Eastern Suburbs Council,” he said. This Civic Heart project has an allocation of $80 million in Waverley Council’s forward budget but would have in reality cost in the order of $120 million. Combined with Mayor Betts’ grand project for the Bondi Pavilion with a budget of $40 million, this would have exhausted Waverley’s $130 million capital works reserve totally. “We will now be seeking re-imbursement from the State Government of all expenditure related to the merger proposal. “If our motion is successful, a more precise figure will be calculated by Council’s General Manager, but we estimate the total cost to ratepayers of over $2 million wasted in the last two years.” [post_title] => Council administrators: caretakers or career builders? [post_excerpt] => Standing for election, selling off assets... council administrators are in the firing line. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => council-administrators-caretakers-career-builders [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-04 11:09:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-04 01:09:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27748 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27724 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-28 02:16:20 [post_content] => It has now been a full 24 hours since the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that proposed council mergers before the courts will not proceed, and the original rejoicing and merriment in the streets is being replaced by anger and – well, more uncertainty. “Due to the protracted nature of current legal challenges and the uncertainty this is causing ratepayers, those council amalgamations currently before the courts will not proceed,” the announcement said. “We want to see councils focusing on delivering the best possible services and local infrastructure to their residents. That is why we are drawing a line under this issue today and ending the uncertainty,” the Premier said. The following proposed mergers will not proceed:
  • Burwood, City of Canada Bay and Strathfield Municipal councils
  • Hornsby Shire and Ku-ring-gai councils
  • Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove and City of Ryde councils
  • Mosman Municipal, North Sydney and Willoughby City councils
  • Randwick City, Waverley and Woollahra Municipal councils
Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton said it was important for local communities to have certainty in the lead up to the September local government elections. “The Government remains committed to reducing duplication, mismanagement and waste by councils so communities benefit from every dollar spent,” Ms Upton said. Naturally, most of the merged councils now want to explore de-merging, and the once who had put up a fight, want to recover their legal costs. And of course the Premier did not, and refuses to, guarantee that the mergers will not be attempted again past the elections. Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose MLC said: “The justification for forced mergers has been a political fix from day one. The Government must release the KPMG report and stop avoiding scrutiny. “Premier Gladys Berejiklian has failed to rule out forced council amalgamations beyond 2019. As well, the Government must release the secret $400,000 KPMG report used by the former Premier to justify the forced mergers.” NSW Labor is now demanding Premier Berejiklian allow communities in forcibly merged councils to hold referendums to choose whether or not to demerge. Not our fault: developers Whilst developer lobby group Urban Taskforce was keen on the amalgamations, it distanced itself from the NSW Government’s version. “The Urban Taskforce originally proposed a council reform that had a district structure for planning decisions and left local matters to local councils,” said Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson. “The NSW Government’s back down on their version of council reform means the scale of thinking about growth will now be local not regional. The value of larger councils was to move management and planning to a less local and more regional level but it seems the government’s processes were not legally tight and appeals have delayed the process leading to uncertainty for all. “The Urban Taskforce believes that the NSW Government must now play a much stronger role in driving housing supply with councils only focussing on local issues.” “The Urban Taskforce is concerned that today’s back down indicates a less reformist approach by the NSW Government than its previous position. This more cautious approach a year and a half before the next state election could put many important initiatives on hold.” Let’s have some stability The association of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW welcomed the government’s announcement on council amalgamations, bringing sector stability before September elections. “The uncertainty the amalgamations agenda have brought to the sector have been a huge resource drain on local councils and have distracted the sector from much needed reform to address sector innovation, misconduct in local government, cost shifting, rate pegging and professional development,” said general manager of Hunter’s Hill Council and president of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW Barry Smith. “We were engaged from the start of the reform process back in late 2011 where the entire local government sector came together to develop real solutions. Regrettably, the focus shifted toward amalgamations, and it is a shame it has taken six years for the State Government to allow all councils to get on with the job of delivering for their community.” The Independent Local Government Review Panel, which first proposed amalgamations, included 64 other recommendations to improve council performance. “Despite sector uncertainty, we have been committed to providing sector wide professional development opportunities, significant council improvement programs and support for councils going through amalgamations. “With this change in policy, we would welcome Minister Upton proactively re-engaging with the sector to ensure that real reform issues raised during the Destination 2036 discussions are dealt with. We must all refocus on supporting innovative council practices and solutions to improve performance, and address critical workforce shortfalls,” chief executive officer Annalisa Haskell said. Back to the courts Without exception, the councils that fought the merger are expected to put in a claim to recover their legal expenses. Additionally, many of the 20 merged councils will seek to de-merge or at least hold plebiscites. And the ones that wanted to merge? Hornsby Shire Council welcomed its proposed merger with Ku-ring-gai, which involved it ceding lucrative rate areas in Epping to Parramatta Council. Parramatta Council happily took these areas while Ku-ring-gai decided to fight, leaving Hornsby in the lurch. [post_title] => Councils: first the clarity, now for the confusion [post_excerpt] => While most councils are rejoicing, the future is still uncertain. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => councils-first-clarity-now-confusion [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-28 02:16:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27724 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27626 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 14:30:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 04:30:11 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27632" align="alignnone" width="296"] ALGA President Mayor David O'Loughlin.[/caption] Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president Mayor David O’Loughlin writes that while the corridor protection measures put forward by Infrastructure Australia are important and worthwhile, the Federal Government must also address first- and last-mile issues. Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) recent paper, Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term, outlines the case for securing and protecting land corridors for future infrastructure projects. They stress that a relatively modest investment today can pay substantial dividends tomorrow. ALGA has always strongly advocated for more integrated transport planning and so we support the report. However, it doesn't stress enough the importance of first and last mile issues we know enable freight to get to its destination, people to get to work, and raw materials to get to on-shore and off-shore markets. According to the National Transport Commission (NTC), road freight grew six-fold over the period 1971 to 2007. The freight task is projected to double by 2030 and treble by 2050. This growth is an indicator of the economic activity that we must begin to plan for today. We must ask ourselves:
  • What are the transport goals and what services are required to foster growth, jobs and prosperity?
  • Where are the investments required to achieve these goals?
Many councils are already answering these tough questions by investing in regional transport plans that identify key transport routes and linkages, and investment opportunities at the local and regional level. However, for this work, to have the impact required, to make productivity gains across the country, local government needs additional support from the Commonwealth. ALGA continues to call for a federal investment of $200 million per annum over five years to establish a Local Freight Productivity Investment Plan to partner with local councils and ensure that first mile/last mile and freight connectivity issues are addressed to improve national productivity. As well as road reform and additional funding requirements, road managers need to work in partnership with transport operators and other levels of government to provide roads and road services that are fit for purpose. A business-as-usual approach will not address this issue. As emphasised by IA, we must make the right infrastructure decisions today to accommodate and meet our growing freight task, increase productivity, create jobs and help create the transport infrastructure for the future prosperity of our nation. These are some of the key messages ALGA will include in its submission to the National Freight and Supply Chain Inquiry currently being undertaken by the federal government. Submissions are due by 28 July 2017 and I encourage all councils to join us and independently make a submission identifying their first and last mile freight priorities. The seven strategic corridors singled out by IA are: East Coast High Speed Rail, Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line. Further information, including the full report, is available on the Infrastructure Australia website. More information about the inquiry and how to make a submission is available on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website. The email address for submissions is freightstrategy@infrastructure.gov.au.   [post_title] => More action needed to protect vital infrastructure corridors [post_excerpt] => Mayor David O’Loughlin writes that first- and last-mile issues in freight must also be addressed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => action-needed-protect-vital-infrastructure-corridors [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-17 22:20:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:20:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27626 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27454 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-23 13:30:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-23 03:30:41 [post_content] => NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announcing the 2017 NSW Budget. Pic:YouTube.      NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has sprinkled some of his budgetary largesse on local councils and stumped up billions for infrastructure including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, bike paths and sports facilities and set up a new fund to kickstart a regional economic renaissance in the state. Mr Perrottet’s first budget was fuelled by a $4.5 billion surplus with coffers swollen from the NSW property boom and a major asset sell-off and local government will be more than pleased to rake in some of the spoils gained from stamp duty and the polls and wires sell off. For the Budget NSW overview click here. A new $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund has been established, focusing on lifting regional economic growth. There are six funds, including strands for infrastructure; sports facilities; improving voice and data connectivity; upgrades to parks, community centres and playgrounds and building and upgrading arts and cultural venues. Another strand also deals specifically with investing in infrastructure for mining communities. Councils, industry, regional organisations and community groups can apply to the funds, which tie in with the NSW government’s 30-year Regional Development Framework. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said the announcement was a positive one for the regions. "LGNSW looks forward to more information from the Deputy Premier's office on how this funding will be allocated and the opportunities for our sector, but overall this looks like very good news for regional communities. "This goes to show that the government does listen when the community speaks, and particularly so when they make their voice heard at the ballot box.” Central Coast Council Administrator, Ian Reynolds, said as he was particularly pleased with the promise to allocate 30 percent of infrastructure spending to the regions. “The $6 billion injection is significant and recognises that regions like the coast are attracting more people who are looking for a better lifestyle away from the big cities and require improved infrastructure to meet their growing needs,” Mr Reynolds. “Roads are a key priority for council because our community wants better roads and it is pleasing to see such a significant injection by the state government into roads here on the coast.” The regions also won another victory, with the government allocating $100 million for palliative care services and staff training, with much of this expected to flow to rural areas where there have been complaints about the dearth of services available. In addition, the government will spend $258 million on supporting and regulating local government through the Office of Local Government, including $2.1 million to optimise the Companion Animals Register and Pet Registry to improve user experience and enhance functionality. But it is not simply a one-way street with all give and no take. Local councils will feel the heat from Mr Perrottet’s push to accelerate house building in the state, including 30,000 new homes in priority precincts in Sydney. The NSW government will spend almost $70 million to speed up major development approvals and help councils rezone land quicker, including $19 million to establish a specialist team to rezone and to help councils accelerate rezonings. Also in the budget is $11.8 million for online, cloud-based housing development applications, especially to help regional councils and small metropolitan councils with low capability. Other key budget points
  • $4.2 billion over four years for education infrastructure, including building new schools and upgrading others
  • A cash injection of $7.7 billion over four years for new hospitals and hospital upgrades
  • Public transport, road building and rail gets $73 billion, including WestConnex, Sydney Metro City rail line and the Pacific Highway upgrade
  • Spending $20.1 million to complete the Service NSW network of service centres by transitioning 24 motor registries in regional and rural communities to Service NSW service centres.
  • Art Gallery of NSW expansion worth $244 million
  • A $1.2 billion package for first home buyers, including stamp duty relief and heavier foreign investor charges
  • $63.2 million to improve child protection, including additional caseworkers, case managers, and case support workers
[post_title] => NSW Budget: the impact on local councils [post_excerpt] => Win for the regions. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-budget-impact-local-councils [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-23 13:36:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-23 03:36:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27454 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27402 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-16 10:40:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-16 00:40:21 [post_content] => Hilltops Council is one of the NSW councils facing a bill for its merger. Pic: Facebook.   The NSW government has left some councils with hefty bills to pay since their forced amalgamations in May last year. Government News understands that mergers have ended up costing some NSW councils more than the state government merger and transition funding they were given. Rural and regional councils, in particular, are resentful because they received only half of what metropolitan councils were given to cover the process and yet they often receive much less from rates and have lower reserves. Rural and regional councils received $5 million for each merger, while metropolitan councils were handed $10 million for their mergers under the state government’s New Council Implementation Fund (NCIF). But there were caveats. The funding could only be used for certain things, such as getting expert advice and integrating IT systems, but not to pay ongoing staff costs or council administrators, who replace councillors and mayors until the local government elections in September. Councils were also given between $10 to $15 million of Stronger Communities funding to go towards community projects and infrastructure. Despite the funding, some councils are finding there is a reality gap. Hilltops Council, a merger between Boorowa, Harden and Young Councils in the South West Slopes of the state, estimates that it will end up spending $6.5 million on its merger, a shortfall of $1.5 million. Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said residents of the three former council areas would be ‘shaking their heads’ at the figures and wondering where the $1.5 million extra would come from. “Every independent expert said at the start of this process that amalgamations would be more expensive and more disruptive than the government pretended, and now we are seeing this come true,” Mr Shoebridge said. “The incompetence of the Coalition is really staggering, and now they are expecting residents in the local councils they have destroyed to meet the cost of their failure.” Hilltops General Manager Anthony McMahon said he did not understand the logic behind giving rural and regional councils significantly less funding to cover their merger costs than their metro counterparts. “In our case, we’ve been responsible for bringing three councils together that are geographically separated,” Mr McMahon said. “We’re also a water utility and we have additional constraints in relation to having two former councils with populations under 5,000, which means we have to comply with Section 218CA of the Local Government Act.  These factors are not a consideration for metro councils.” The council will finalise its transitional costs and then consider whether to lobby the state government for the money. “We’re focused on ensuring Hilltops Council is adequately resourced to complete the merger process, and will be making representations to Minister Upton accordingly,” Mr McMahon said. “We’ve made clear our determination in ensuring the community does not pay for merger-related costs.” But it is not only regional councils who have been left to pick up the tab for the mergers most of them fought hard against. Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council, an amalgam of Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils, received $10 million for its upfront merger costs and has only $105,000 left in the kitty. The council’s biggest outlays were $2.5 million for staff redundancies and $2.8 million for system integration. Northern Beaches Council acknowledges it faces further restructuring costs in the draft of its 2017-2018 Operational Plan. “It is recognised that council will incur further restructuring costs such as the cost of integration, aligning positions within the new organisational structure and new salary system which will exceed the funding provided,” says the plan. “Accordingly the Long Term Financial Plan has been prepared on the basis that once the NCIF has been fully utilised, existing budgets will firstly be used to pay for those merger and transition costs not funded through this mechanism prior to the identification of net savings.” Brian Halstead President of Save Our Councils Coalition, a community group against forced council mergers, said a funding shortfall had always been on the cards. “The amount that the government allowed was based on the KPMG report, which under costed amalgamations and because they’re not allowing councils to book the ongoing staff costs and administrators against the funding,” Mr Halstead said. He said some council staff were spending 25 per cent of their time managing the merger process, including harmonising service delivery and staff pay and conditions, and that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian should stump up the extra cash. “If I was a ratepayer, I would be thinking that these amalgamations have been forced on them by state government. It’s only reasonable that the state government bear the costs of amalgamation but I doubt any of the administrators will [ask] because they’re paid public servants.” Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Keith Rhoades said he was not surprised that merger costs had exceeded the funding available. “LGNSW, along with a number of academics and other experts, argued strongly throughout the process that there was a strong potential for additional costs,” Mr Rhoades said. “It was always clear that the cost of individual amalgamations would vary from council to council depending on readiness, systems compatibility, staff skills etc and in fact this is one reason why forced amalgamations can be more difficult than those that are achieved voluntarily, after extensive meaningful consultation.” Roberta Ryan, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney, said it was hard to predict the cost of mergers but the state government had given it their best shot at trying to work it out from past experience. She said the cost of mergers would depend partly upon the extent of co-operation between councils before they merged, for example through shared IT systems and services and the level of regulatory harmony in an area. “I understand there has been a shortfall for a number of councils,” Ms Ryan said. “Many regional and rural councils would have found it harder and more expensive because the amount [they were given] was less and some of them may not have been working towards some of these things that some of the metro councils were.” The ability of new councils to absorb any cost blowout was highly variable, she said. “Some councils have good reserves but some of the smaller ones are very strapped financially.” Asked when the true costs and savings from mergers would be known she said: “Not ever - as we don’t have the base line data available - there can be overall benefits and improvements - that may have happened even if the amalgamations didn’t happen.” The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) would not say whether any NSW councils had approached Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton to fund the shortfall or whether the government would act, should this occur. The DPC statement would only say: “The NSW Government has provided an unprecedented level of support to new local councils. “The NSW Government provided new councils with $375 million to implement the mergers and kick start investment in new services and infrastructure for their residents. “New councils in regional areas received $5 million to cover the costs of merging, as well as $10 million for a merger of two councils or $15 million for a merger of three councils, which is to be used for community, services and infrastructure projects.” [post_title] => NSW councils fork out for forced mergers as government funding dries up [post_excerpt] => Councils could petition Berejiklian for shortfall. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-councils-fork-forced-mergers-government-funding-dries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 14:53:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 04:53:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27402 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27309 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-06 11:07:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:07:45 [post_content] => Inner West Council meeting. Pic: Facebook. A NSW council has defended itself over criticism that it did not put a $9.4 million IT contract out to tender, saying it followed local government procurement rules and needs to urgently integrate its IT systems post-amalgamation. Inner West Council in Sydney has hired TechnologyOne to consolidate its IT systems following the forced amalgamation between Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils in May last year. Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils already used TechnologyOne but Ashfield used Civica International, TechnologyOne’s main industry rival. A council spokesperson said the decision not to go to open tender complied with Section 55(3)(i) of the Local Government Act 1993, which states “… because of extenuating circumstances, remoteness of locality or the unavailability of competitive or reliable tenderers, a council decides by resolution (which states the reasons for the decision) that a satisfactory result would not be achieved by inviting tenders”. Contracts over $150,000 normally go out to tender but the council is pleading ‘extenuating circumstances’, which it says includes: the council merger; the fact there are only two main industry service providers; the long-term benefits to the council and community and the urgency of integrating IT services across the new council after the merger, arguing that the tender process would ‘add a significant and unreasonable time delay’. The spokesperson said: “Two out of the three former councils already have Technology One licenses and use TechnologyOne products so we are simply continuing an existing relationship with this supplier. This decision was in the best financial and other interests of our residents. “TechnologyOne is an Australian based company and their superior technology will allow council to take a quantum leap forward in how we do business.” But Greens MP and Local Government spokesperson David Shoebridge isn’t buying it. “They’ve rushed headlong into a five-year contract on the basis that there was a desperate urgency,” Mr Shoebridge said. “It is remarkable that what started as a quick patch job has ended up with this almost permanent service provider.” He said Civica provided similar solutions to local government around Australia and would have been ready to respond quickly to an invite to tender to ensure the council got the best IT solution. “These assumptions are best tested through competitive tender process, that’s how you get value for money," Mr Shoebridge said. Meanwhile, Civica has asked why merged councils would sidestep the tender process without testing alternatives. A Civica spokesperson said the company disputed that a single supplier was the best path for councils to go down and said this could push out other vendors.  "We believe that councils want best-in-class solutions and sometimes that can be a mix of suppliers," the spokesperson said. "What was the harm in them going out to tender? We believe that they could have generated a better commercial outcome, even if they continued to go with that provider." Inner West Council’s $5 million IT contract includes integrating its IT and telephone network, external website and intranet and one-time ‘building costs’. A further $4.4 million will cover annual software licencing fees of $1.6 million over five years. TechnologyOne licencing fees will replace existing annual fees. [post_title] => Merged council says it followed procurement rules over $9m IT contract [post_excerpt] => Pleads ‘extenuating circumstances’ [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => merged-council-says-followed-procurement-rules-9m-contract [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 11:28:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:28:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27309 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27284 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-02 11:24:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:24:51 [post_content] =>   NSW councils tentative on housing affordability package Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ‘promising ideas’ in the state’s new housing affordability package but said the reforms were ‘somewhat light on detail’. The reforms include stamp duty concessions for first home buyers, changes to the first home buyer’s grant, higher taxes on foreign investors and accelerating council-led rezonings and development application approvals. "LGNSW congratulates the government on its efforts to do what it can to support housing affordability, and there's nothing we'd like more to do than to come out and praise their efforts,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said. "Unfortunately until there is more detailed information available it really seems to be a case of the devil will lie in the detail." Mr Rhoades said the sector welcomed many components of the package, including the ‘very positive’ move to lift the cap on development contributions to ensure new homes had the necessary infrastructure to support them, like footpaths, roads and parks. He also cautiously welcomed the announcement of funding of up to $2.5 million for ‘growth priority councils’ to help councils update their Local Environment Plans quicker. "It's great news that these ten to 15 councils will be supported to plan for future growth, but we are a little concerned at the suggestion that councils should accelerate the rezoning of land," Mr Rhoades said.  "Rezoning needs good strategic planning at a local level, and it's important that we don't give this up in the pursuit of speed at all costs.” He said it was unclear whether the government’s new guidelines around protecting the local character of communities would have much force. However, Mr Rhoades said councils were pleased the government had not moved straight to mandatory independent planning panels for deciding larger development applications. "These panels work very effectively for some councils, but other councils don't see the need for them - it really needs to be a matter of local choice.”   Digital marketplace for smart cities Local councils can now use the Digital Transformation Agency’s (DTA) Digital Marketplace platform to collaborate on smart city projects, including smart lighting, rubbish collection and infrastructure modelling. The new functionality, which is expected to become permanent, was introduced to help councils find suppliers for the innovative products and services they need to deliver smart city ideas. “There is a great appetite for innovation within local councils, who are at the forefront of smart city initiatives,” Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said. “Already 25 per cent of registered buyers on the Digital Marketplace are local government and there are more than 400 sellers who can provide the digital expertise they need to transform their communities.” There are already some exciting projects up on the Digital Marketplace, such as Sunshine Coast’s underground waste collection project and Ipswich Council’s 5D data modelling, which brings together streams of data to build a five-dimensional view of the city’s infrastructure. The Marketplace is supporting the federal government’s Smart Cities Plan and complements the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. Applications for the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program close on 30 June 2017.  Eight Sydney councils will offer residents free energy advice Eight Sydney councils will offer free energy advice to residents through the Our Energy Future partnership, going live on World Environment Day, Monday 5 June. Eight councils are working with Our Energy Future: Inner West, Bayside, City of Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown City, Georges River, City of Parramatta, Randwick City, and City of Sydney. Our Energy Future (formerly Our Solar Future) will involve an energy advice website, phone line and free, no-obligation quotes on solar and assessment services. Users can find information such as trusted solar and storage battery retailers and installers and tips on improving the energy efficiency of their homes and workplaces. For a discounted rate, Our Energy Future experts can also conduct comprehensive energy assessments to offer more tailored advice.   Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) President Councillor Sally Betts said she was excited about the launch. “We’re delighted that Our Energy Future and SSROC have been able to come together with eight councils to deliver financial savings to our local residents,” she said. Our Energy Future is coordinated by Positive Charge, a not-for-profit social enterprise. “Our organisation has its foundations in working with local government to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable and energy efficiency technologies,” said Manager Positive Charge Kate Nicolazzo. “We are thrilled to be partnering with SSROC to bring this award-winning service to Sydney-region residents,” she said. SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said, “Our Energy Future is a key element of SSROC’s Renewable Energy Master Plan, and will be run by Positive Charge for a 15-month pilot.” [post_title] => Around the councils: Digital Marketplace open for smart cities; Response to NSW housing reforms [post_excerpt] => And eight Sydney council's energy efficiency push. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => around-councils-digital-marketplace-open-smart-cities-response-nsw-housing-reforms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:32:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:32:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27284 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27268 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-31 13:04:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-31 03:04:03 [post_content] => NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has put the brakes on the controversial Fire and Emergency Services Levy (FESL), which could now be scrapped. The FESL was supposed to come in on July 1 to replace the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) but it sparked consternation from several quarters, including from local councils, property owners and unions. The government is now in the awkward position of having to reverse FESL legislation, which went through in March, to stall the scheme while it works out what to do next. The new levy would have meant several changes: first, it would be collected by local councils on the state government’s behalf alongside council rates, rather than by insurance companies; second, all property owners would pay the levy, including those whose property is uninsured. The government has repeatedly said that the ‘vast majority’ of property owners would be better off under the new levy, saving on average $47 per year, and that it would encourage more people to insure their properties. It said the levy was revenue neutral and fairer. But this figure has been disputed by the firefighters’ union, the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union of NSW (FBEU), using figures from the NSW Valuer-General and formulae contained in the FESL Bill. The union argued that property owners in some parts of Sydney, such as North Sydney, Mosman and the northern beaches, could end up paying more than double: up to $471 a year, compared with an annual average of $233 under the previous levy. The FBEU argued too that the proposal shifted the burden from businesses to homeowners with people living in low-risk homes subsidising those in bushfire-prone areas and high risk industries while halving the state’s contribution by around $70 million annually. Government News understands that some businesses had used the government’s online calculator and been shocked at how much extra they would have to pay under the new levy. Yesterday [Tuesday] Ms Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet blamed the government’s deferral on the negative impact it could have on small and medium-sized businesses and made no mention of homeowners. “While the new system produces fairer outcomes in the majority of cases, some people – particularly in the commercial and industrial sectors – are worse off by too much under the current model, and that is not what we intended,” Ms Berejiklian said. Mr Perrottet said the FESL was a complex reform and there would be challenges during the transition phase. “It’s not enough for this reform to work on paper – its real-life implementation has real life consequences for families and businesses, and we need to make sure they are not placed under unfair strain,” Mr Perrottet said. The government would not be drawn on whether the scheme would be scrapped or deferred. Ms Berejiklian said during a media conference yesterday: “If we don’t get a fairer system, we won’t introduce it. But our intent is to defer until we get a fairer system.” The government has said it will work with local government, fire and emergency services, the insurance industry and others to find a better and fairer path forward. Reaction News of the back down took many by surprise yesterday, cheering the firefighters’ union and local councils and aggravating insurance companies. The FBEU took it as proof the tax was ‘hopelessly wrong’ from the start. “They had six years, an inquiry and interstate precedent to get this right, and yet they completely stuffed it,” FBEU Secretary Leighton Drury said. “The FESL is a bad tax, and the wrong way to go. It doesn’t need further review and tinkering, it needs to be scrapped.” Mr Drury said there should be no levy and fire services to be funded from consolidated revenue, the same as police and other core public services. The Local Government NSW (LGNSW), the peak body for the state’s local councils, also welcomed the policy rethink. “Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s announcement that the government will not impose the FESL from July 1 provides an opportunity to pursue a true broad-based levy that replaces both the insurance and existing ratepayer contributions,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said. LGNSW said the FESL was based on the value of unimproved land value of property in NSW and recent land valuations would have meant ‘significant increases’ for many property owners. “Councils have already done a lot of work to comply with the government’s FESL legislation, and there will now be a need to undo this work – not to mention the associated costs. While this is regrettable, the chance to get the levy right should be our focus,” he said. Meanwhile the insurance industry reacted angrily to the news and said it would increase policy premiums for property owners. The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said insurance companies were ‘shocked and disappointed’ by the decision to delay the FESL, especially as no deadline had been set for a final decision. “This has significant legal and commercial implications for the industry. It is a logistical and technical challenge that will cause confusion and increase premiums for policyholders,” ICA spokesperson Campbell Fuller said. “The resumption of ESL collection will come with significant additional costs that the industry will be forced to pass on in full to policyholders.” He complained that ‘every other mainland state has abolished emergency services levies on insurance with little fuss’. Mr Fuller said insurers had already spent more than a year and tens of millions of dollars on consultants and IT changes to prepare for the new levy. The Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor, headed by Professor Allan Fels and his deputy David Cousins, had previously been tasked with being the ‘cop on the beat’ to ensure insurance companies removed the levy from policies and passed this on in full to homeowners and businesses.   The government has said it will now oversee ‘a smooth continuation of the existing system and ensure insurance companies collect only the amounts necessary to meet fire and emergency services funding requirements’. Penalties for any insurance company that does not heed this are steep: up to $10 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals. Both men had similar roles when Victoria did the same thing, following the 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission recommendations. [post_title] => Berejiklian could scrap new Fire and Emergency Services Levy [post_excerpt] => Councils and union happy, insurance companies not. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27268 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:33:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:33:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27268 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27216 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-25 05:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-24 19:00:00 [post_content] =>    Bendigo Council's Presentation and Assets Director Craig Lloyd with Clean Cube. Pic: supplied.    A solar waste compactor that functions with an ordinary household wheelie bin will be trialled by a Victorian council keen to increase bin capacity, cut costs and reduce the number of rubbish collections the council makes.  The City of Greater Bendigo Council is currently trialling Clean Cube, a smart waste compactor which runs on renewable solar energy and tells you when it is full. The Clean Cube was developed by Korean start-up company Ecube and it can hold a 120 or 240 litre bin.  Bendigo Council’s Australian supplier is Smart City Solutions. City of Greater Bendigo Presentation and Assets Director Craig Lloyd said it could help reduce the cost of waste collection. “By reducing the frequency of collections there is the potential to reduce the costs and labour associated with providing waste collection services to public areas by up to 80 per cent,” Mr Lloyd said. “It’s important to look at the new technology that exists to see if it’s viable for our community.” He said the Clean Cube used smart technology and multiple sensors to measure the bin’s fill level in real time. “The sensors trigger the automatic compaction of waste inside the bin and by doing this the capacity of the bin is increased by up to eight times meaning it doesn’t have to be emptied as often,” Mr Lloyd said. “However when it is full, the Clean Cube electronically notifies the city’s waste collection staff that it needs to be emptied.” Mr Lloyd said the compactor’s smart technology also included safety features that could detect sudden temperature rises, such as a fire in the bin.  Using the compactor bins at events would also reduce overflowing and litter. Ecube Labs’ online marketing manager, Matti Juutinen, told IoTAustralia in June last year that the cube can hold up to eight times more rubbish than traditional bins. “We are the only company in the industry to offer an ultrasonic fill-level sensor (with 10 years battery life) and a smart solar-powered waste compacting bin on a single real-time monitoring platform that generates optimised schedules and routes based on fill-level forecasting,” Mr Juutinen said. He said the compactor could go for two to three weeks without sunlight once fully charged. Charging it takes three to four days if there has been at least four hours of sunlight on each day. The Clean Cube is being trialled at Lake Weeroona, the city’s most popular recreation area, until June 13. [post_title] => Korean solar waste compactor could slash councils' rubbish collection costs [post_excerpt] => Victorian council trials Clean Cube. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => vic-council-trials-korean-solar-waste-compactor-slash-rubbish-collection-costs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-25 16:23:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-25 06:23:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27216 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27158 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 13:07:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 03:07:35 [post_content] =>   Fighting for deamalgamation: former Pittwater councillor Bob Grace. Pic: YouTube.   Residents are gearing up to push NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to deamalgamate NSW councils forcibly merged in May last year, galvanised by recent court successes of two councils opposing their mergers. Ku-ring-gai Council, on Sydney’s upper north shore, scored a victory against the NSW government in March when the Court of Appeal found it had been “denied procedural process” during its merger because delegate Garry West relied on a report from consultants KPMG, which contained financial modelling that the council could not access. The state government was ordered to pay the council’s costs and decided not to appeal the decision but Ms Berejiklian has made it clear she will not back down on the merger and her next move is uncertain. Rebel councils had another opportunity to celebrate after Woollahra Council was granted special leave to appeal against its forced merger with Randwick and Waverley in the High Court last week, reigniting the council’s hopes after a failed attempt to challenge the legality of its amalgamation in the Land and Environment Court in December last year. The Ku-ring-gai and Woollahra cases have helped inspire the recent formation of two residents’ groups, which are hoping to stop some mergers and deamalgamate others. Local Democracy Matters represents people opposed to the merger of Woollahra, Randwick and Waverley Councils, which is still on the cards. Protect Pittwater is pushing for the succession of Pittwater from the Northern Beaches Council, which emerged from the former Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils in May last year. Both groups are considering their options and legal challenges are likely. Protect Pittwater is also planning to submit a proposal to the NSW Local Government Minister to redefine council boundaries and reinstate Pittwater Council under the NSW Local Government Act but first the group must gather the signatures of 250 of the enrolled voters for the area; or 10 per cent, whichever is greater. Minister Gabrielle Upton, would then have to refer the proposal for examination and report to the Boundaries Commission or to the Departmental Chief Executive if the action was taken under Section 218E of the act, which deals with boundary alterations. This could kick off the whole delegate, public hearing process all over again. Bob Grace from Protect Pittwater, who served for three years on Warringah Council and 20 years on Pittwater Council, said the action was necessary to protect the area from high rises and dense development, similar to that already visited upon Manly and Dee Why. He said there would only be three councillors out of 15 on the Northern Beaches council after the September local government elections and Warringah would hold sway. “They’ve sold us out and I think everyone agrees with that. We will win this case if we go to court,” Mr Grace, a retired barrister, said. “There is really strong feeling up here. People in Pittwater are different. They don’t want a vibrant atmosphere like Manly and they don’t want high rise.” The group will crowdfund the money needed for legal fees. “Crowdfunding will enable the community to contribute and take action on their [own] behalf. They can get their council back if they want to contribute,” Mr Grace said. “People are realising that this Northern Beaches Council is all spin. Services are going down and staff are leaving.” Local Democracy Matters spokeperson Richard Horniblow said residents wanted to keep councils ‘genuinely local’ but some councils had not put up enough resistance to the government’s merger plans. “While Woollahra [Council] has been working hard to protect its residents from a forced amalgamation, we have seen too little too late from Randwick and dreadful complicity by the Liberal majority in Waverley,” Mr Horniblow said. “Our association has members from across the political spectrum who are coming together with one goal: to protect our right to genuinely local government that meets the needs of local residents.” NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said other councils where feelings still ran high could follow suit, for example Leichhardt, Gundagai and Tumbarumba.   “It is really heartening to see residents standing up so strongly for their councils and for their local democracy,” Mr Shoebridge said. “Residents in the east aren’t waiting for Waverley and Randwick Councils to come good and oppose the amalgamation but are now taking the state government to court themselves.” He said the Ku-ring-gai decision applied to all the government’s amalgamation proposals ‘on the face of it’ and this included Woollahra, Waverley and Randwick. Randwick Council agreed on Tuesday this week that it would mount a late legal challenge to its merger after two liberal councillors withdrew a rescission motion. Randwick Mayor Noel D’Souza said the council had received legal advice, which the council has said it will publish, which suggested it had grounds for appeal. “Randwick Council’s position has consistently been that we are financially viable and strong enough to stand alone,” Mr D’Souza said. “With the climate changing it’s prudent that we consider our options.” Merger court cases are still in progress for several hold-out councils, including Ku-ring-gai, Hunters Hill, North Sydney, Strathfield, Mosman, and Lane Cove. [post_title] => Residents clamour for NSW council deamalgamation after recent court wins [post_excerpt] => Randwick Council’s late legal challenge. 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How can local government continue to meet the needs of residents and provide excellence in services, and still stay on budget? Do services need to be point scored to be considered as core essentials? What are the best ways to drive efficiency? The pressures on local government to get key investment, resource allocation and delivery model decisions right have never been greater. Increasing demand for services, rapid technology change and the constant requirement to invest in asset construction and renewal are forcing councils to reconsider traditional business models. In responding to these pressures and re-examining the way the business of local government is run, leadership is contending with three key factors:
  1. Limitations on traditional revenue sources
Pressures on local government have been further compounded by the Commonwealth decision in the 2014-15 Budget to pause the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants to local government. The Productivity Commission recognizes that local government is near its maximum capacity to generate its own revenue. Victoria has also seen the introduction of ‘Fair Go rate capping’.
  1. The change in residents’ expectations and the move to customer-centricity
The arrival of social media and other new technologies has meant that constituents are not afraid to express themselves vocally if they believe that issues are not being addressed or council services fall short. This is aligned to the growing perception of residents as customers, rather than merely ratepayers. Customers expect the same levels of service from government as from commercial transactions.
  1. New and rapidly advancing technologies
The landscape of available technologies is changing at an increasing rate. Council officers delivering customer-facing services and those in the back office both need to drive efficiency and providing value for money while stretching the dollar further.   KPMG also sees a number of other factors that individual councils must address: Ageing technology and under-investment Many councils currently support a large number of outdated IT systems, set within a complex and inefficient infrastructure that is not keeping pace with current practices. This limits their ability to grow. In addition, the capability and operating models within internal IT departments have not evolved and can no longer meet local government demands. Historical planning methods Most councils’ approach to planning has not adapted to the changing environment.It has not caught up with ongoing development and is largely still run on a functional or organisational level, rather than being service-led. But it is service-led planning that will enable strategic direction setting, realistic cost assessments, individual staff KPIs, and appropriate funding for technology or outsourcing.   To deal with this new landscape, we suggest considering the following key actions: Place the customer at the centre As the most granular tier of government, councils have the greatest capacity to identify and respond to emerging community needs. Across Australia, local governments are striving to move towards customer-centric models of service delivery that anticipate and respond to community needs in a sustainable and agile manner. Re-think business as usual Changing community expectations requires a continual process of self-reflection and evaluation by councils on the way they do business. This requires fresh thinking, of challenging the way things have always been done. This involves:
  • redesigning operating models and organisational structures
  • adopting best practice processes
  • driving cultural change
  • adopting different and innovative methods for engaging key stakeholders
  • considering alternative approaches and models for service delivery
  • critically examining every component of the organisation.
Revisit and reshape IT Councils need to invest in the creation of a future-proof IT architecture, incorporating modern technology principles and practices such as cloud, ‘As a Service’ delivery mofdels, business and process led specification, and agile development methods. With today’s shift towards cloud-based software as a service solution, systems that were previously out of reach are now affordable to local government. The higher rate of change also requires a greater level of innovation and adjustment in what systems offer to residents. There is an opportunity to take a fresh look at systems, and to challenge the assumptions that local government is highly specialised, with only limited options available to it. Think collaboratively Local governments can no longer afford to only think locally. Regional partners at a local, state and federal level are fundamental to the achievement of better social and economic outcomes within a fiscally constrained environment. KPMG sees heightened collaboration with like-minded councils around investment in IT service profiling and reviews, operational shared services and innovative knowledge sharing. Leveraging regional and national partnerships is critical to ensuring local investment can be amplified through complementary investments from regional and national partners. Have an innovation agenda Innovation is already on the agenda of most councils, but open and effective innovation management requires nurturing and ongoing development. One area of innovation is what is ‘Smart Cities’. Underpinned by emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and ubiquitous connectivity, alongside advances in cognitive computing and machine learning (AI), Smart Cities can enable greater citizen engagement, improve quality of life, provide opportunities for economic development and unlock efficiencies in service delivery.   Does all of this seem daunting? It needn’t be. Challenges are simply opportunities under another guise. As we approach 2020, local councils can take stock, re-evaluate and prepare. They have every chance to get ready for the dramatic shifts and changes in the years ahead. *Toni Jones is a Partner, Enterprise Advisory, for KPMG. Developed in collaboration with KPMG Partner Paul Low and KPMG Directors Paul Francis and Michael Alf. [post_title] => How KPMG sees the future of local government [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => kpmg-sees-future-local-government [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-13 08:45:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-12 21:45:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28252 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 523 [max_num_pages] => 38 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => 1 [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => d097e2503cfd6d0e4cbb8813f1c737c4 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

local-government

local-government