Tuesday, May 07, 2013

short changing communities, vlga comments on state budget

State budget short-changes communities in challenging times

The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) believes the Victorian State Budget 2013 provides limited funding for local government to meet its current and future challenges, and lacks initiatives to assist capacity building for local government reform.

While the tight revenue context means that all levels of government need to be cautious, it is our belief that in tough budgetary times, governments need to build the capacity of communities to work together and thrive in challenging times,” said VLGA President Cr. Samantha Dunn.

“Investment in community infrastructure and programs which underpin peoples’ ability to participate in the governance of their community and society should not be seen as an ‘added extra’.
Rather, such investment is central to the business of State and local governments.
Local government makes a significant contribution to our State’s economy and is fundamental to every Victorian community.
“The VLGA has argued for a comprehensive review of the Local Government Act and the local government sector in order to improve local government and further its contribution to the State.

“A comprehensive review of the local government sector would provide mechanisms to assist the enhancement of local government capacity to respond to financial challenges.
“While the review has not been delivered, we are pleased that the Budget still contains some measures aimed at improving local government including introducing legislation to address emerging issues surrounding councillor conduct and the governance system, and the implementation of the Local
Government Performance Reporting Framework,” said President Cr. Dunn.

In light of the State’s consideration of significant changes to the way local libraries operate, we are disappointed that the Government has not committed extra funding for local libraries, and are concerned that the absence of new funding may undermine any potential benefits from the proposals under consideration.
“We are also disappointed that the Government has not committed long-term additional funding for planning.
The Government has proposed fresh thinking for the future planning of Melbourne through the development of a new Metropolitan Planning Strategy (MPS) and the establishment of a Metropolitan Planning Authority. The MPS will require significantly improved governance, institutional arrangements, long-term infrastructure planning, public participation and defined funding mechanisms and additional funding is vital to ensuring the MPS is successful.

“Local governments are active and genuine in their attempts to contain costs. However, a range of impediments exist to cost containment for local governments, several of which are beyond their control - including continued cost shifting from the upper levels of government, stagnating or declining government grants and the significant infrastructure renewal gap.
This trend has continued with grants and transfers to local governments expected to be $859.5 million in 2013-14, virtually no increase on the $858.8 million provided in 2012-13.
“While we recognise the Victorian Government is aspiring to generate confidence and investment in the State with the challenge of constrained revenue, we believe this agenda must be approached in partnership with local government.
The VLGA believes that improved capacity building, funding support, cooperation and integration provide a cost-effective means to empower Victorian local governments.
“We are disappointed that the Victorian Government’s proposed budget has not provided local governments with the ability to meet challenges and support their communities.”

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