500 words (5 minutes reading time) by Tim Whistler
I have read Lancing and Colin’s posts with some interest. As a long-term, self-appointed local government pundit, I don’t think the rate cap can be an existential threat to local government, but it is going to turn councils into zombies. Like zombie companies, councils will become dependent on others for their survival. They will be alive but unable to think or act for themselves. Despite what people would like to think, ultimately, they will be simply the local branch of the state government delivering the services the state decides they must. This is at odds with what many councils currently think they are doing.
“Councils have autonomy to provide services that meet the needs of their local community, and will establish a range of discretionary processes, including local laws, to guide certain activities that can occur within their municipality.”
Municipal Association of Victoria, ‘Vic Councils’ website
1600 words (15 minutes reading time) by Colin Weatherby
Great post by Lancing Farrell. I like the link to the creative and enduring solutions people have devised in response to food scarcity. Human ingenuity can be a marvellous thing.
The impact of declining financial sustainability on asset management is disturbing. As anyone directly responsible for council assets knows, for many years the biggest challenge for local government in Victoria has been the cost of caring for assets. The Institute of Public Works Engineers (IPWEA) has been advocating for better asset management for years. I would argue that the principal council service is to own and care for assets on behalf of the ‘community. The rate cap has rapidly made this much more difficult, and as Lancing showed, the challenge is not spread evenly across councils.
What can councils do in response to funding scarcity? Will our commitment and creativity help us find new ways to provide the services the community needs and expects? Our own il comune povero.
1500 words (14 minutes reading time) By Lancing Farrell
I was reading an article about la cucina povera, the cuisine created in Italy over centuries based on the food prepared by poor and sometimes starving people. Throughout history, people have experienced food insecurity and famine and they have adapted, but none have done it as well as the Italians. In Italy, love, ingenuity and scarcity combined to give birth to a new and delicious cuisine that has become mainstream.
I wondered, can a similar thing happen to local government as it is starved of funds and impoverished by the Victorian government’s rate cap?
1400 words (reading time 11 minutes) by Lancing Farrell
The focus of local governments has been on employee protection, service continuity, managing disruptions to cash flow and supply chains, and trying to understand the new risks emerging with Coronavirus. It is a whole new operating environment. This post explores some of the financial and operational impacts of the Coronavirus.
Physical distancing has reduced the capacity of facilities by half or more, making appointments and providing concierges has increased staffing requirements at facilities, and there is demand to retain new services like ‘click and collect’ and tele-services introduced in response to the Coronavirus, at the same time as regular services resume.
This is all happening as revenue is impacted by loss of fees and charges, additional expenses in relief packages offered to businesses, and citizens seeking deferral of rates because of financial hardship. Some councils are planning not to index their rates, which is a revenue reduction next financial year and every year thereafter.
At the same time, councils in Victoria are expected to maintain the employment of all staff without financial support from the Federal or State government. Councils adding to unemployment will not help and they need to work out how to live within their means.
What have councils been doing and what do they need to consider doing? Continue reading