Tuesday, May 01, 2012

wins and losses for local governments and communities

2012/13 Victorian budget
Wins and losses for local governments and communities

VLGA President, Cr Samantha Dunn today welcomed some major initiatives in the 2012/13 State Budget including funds specifically for local government services, reflecting on some other areas of disappointment. 

Initiatives applauded by the VLGA specifically for local government are $12.7 million over four years in libraries funding – an extra $3.1 million per year; $7.8 million over three years for roadside weed control. 

There is also a significant allocation to support the Vulnerable People in Emergencies Program and the establishment of the Vulnerable Persons Register and funding for community fire refuges.

More than 5,500 additional households will receive concessions for municipal rates and charges, and there will be $62.7 million over the next four years for early childhood services including universal maternal and child health services, and an increase in home and community care funding.

“While the VLGA welcomes additional resources in these areas and organic and other waste funding initiatives announced before the Budget, we are very disappointed to see that the State Government has not identified any investment in the ‘Green Light Plan’ public lighting program in 2012-13 – an election commitment.  In fact the Budget papers identify the area as a ‘saving’.  We had hoped to see the State Government could provide some assurance around future directions in this area of importance for local governments, especially for metropolitan councils, and this is a very concerning omission.”

“Local governments have been facing a number of external pressures in having to pay levies and taxes such as the EPA Landfill Levy.  Local governments will also likely have to deal with extra costs of implementation of the Victorian Government’s Fire Services Levy in the next financial year.  Cost-shifting is still a major issue for local government and it is difficult for smaller councils to absorb increasing costs.”

In the Budget statement from the Minister for Planning, reference is made to “key reforms to slash red tape that cause delays and high costs” and Cr Dunn said the VLGA will be keen to understand what the proposed reforms are, and their effects on communities and local government planning responsibilities.

“We also note the allocation of $34 million for the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission including start-up costs, and an additional $4 million over four years for the office of the Ombudsman, so we will be keen to see how this impacts the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.”

“We would like to have seen major public transport funding investments.  New resources for VLine trains to support regional cities and communities are positive however we were looking for metropolitan investment especially to support growth areas.”

The VLGA is also looking closely at changes in policy and funding in the housing sector and education, with regards the impact on local governments.  Cr Dunn said “our members will be watching these areas closely to ascertain the effects on their communities, and possible further cost-shifting to councils”.

Cr Dunn concluded "local governments are well placed to work cooperatively and in harmony with the State Government to help deliver many of their priorities - especially if we are resourced to do so. I strongly urge the Baillieu Government to continue involving local governments in the development of their programs and policies."

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