16 December 2021
As 2021 draws to a close, we have all been looking forward to a short break with friends and loved ones before charging into the new year with batteries fully charged – and that was certainly the mood when I recorded LGNSW’s video Christmas card you see above.
But all that changed with the shock announcement this week that the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) had handed down the lowest rate peg determination in 20 years.
Rate Peg Shock
The announced 0.7% baseline rate peg for 2022-23 is devastating news for councils still struggling to help their communities recover from the economic impact of drought, bushfires, floods and COVID-related lockdowns.
And while a limited number of councils have been allocated a slightly higher rate peg to help cope with population growth, a full 78 of the state’s councils will miss out. Several of these have already advised LGNSW they will be forced to cut services and infrastructure expenditure.
LGNSW is liaising with councils to define the magnitude of the impact this determination will have on the sector’s financial sustainability: data can be provided through the General Managers network or by emailing LGNSW.
We believe the current circumstances are so significant that they warrant the one-off use of Local Government Act 1993 powers to issue a Ministerial Order specifying the percentage by which councils’ general income may be varied.
With a majority of the State’s councils now likely to be forced to make an unexpected application to vary their rate peg, we’ll also be seeking a dramatic simplification of the IPART Special Variation application process.
Rural and Regional Health Announcements
In some much-needed good news for our regional and rural communities, the NSW Government has announced three new initiatives aimed at improving health provision and support beyond our metropolitan areas. They are:
- $45.3 million to deliver modern, sustainable accommodation for health workers close to health facilities in the Murrumbidgee, Southern NSW and Far West Local Health Districts
- $30 million to help attract and retain health care workers, including new scholarships for young people
- $23 million to make it easier to access health care, including support for rural and regional patients who need to travel longer distances and a new online tool to navigate local services.
The accommodation and scholarship funding particularly align directly with LGNSW's recent submission on rural and regional health cost shifting, which calls for urgent action from the NSW Government to fund incentives to attract a rural health workforce.
Biodiversity Offsets Scheme
Last Friday, LGNSW appeared before the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Integrity of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme to give evidence on our submission.
The Committee noted its appreciation for the clarity of the submission, which compiled feedback from over 40 councils and local government organisations into its 29 recommendations. LGNSW appeared alongside Singleton and Port Stephens Councils to indicate broad support for the Scheme and highlight the Scheme challenges and our suggested improvements. Wollondilly, Coffs Harbour, Shoalhaven, Goulburn-Mulwaree and Clarence Valley Councils also appeared on Friday.
Hearings have now concluded, and the Committee is due to report by 1 March 2022.
Local Government Assets
At a national level, ALGA has now released its 2021 National State of the Assets Report, which demonstrates the need for increased Federal and State Government funding to enable councils to provide and maintain critical infrastructure.
The report highlights councils’ mammoth responsibilities for a total $342 billion in assets including roads, water & wastewater, stormwater, bridges, buildings and facilities, parks and airports.
Our ALGA colleagues are also gearing up for next year’s federal election campaign, with the identification of 17 national priorities for our sector. They’ll be asking individual councils to identify local projects and programs that could be delivered through better partnerships in the best interest of our communities. I’ll bring you more information about this national campaign and the role you can play in it early in the new year.
Don’t Miss Out
A quick reminder that the $150 Early Bird discount for our Human Resources Conference (31 January to 2 February 2022) ends on Friday – big savings for human resource professionals gearing up for a new council term commencing in the new year. To take advantage of this offer, register here.
Don’t forget to book for our 2022 International Women’s Day Lunch, at Sydney’s Luna Park on Tuesday 8 March. The LGNSW IWD Lunch is one of our most popular sell-out events, so register in plenty of time to secure seats for yourself and your colleagues. Our keynote speaker for IWD 2022 is Jennifer Robinson - an international philanthropist, barrister and human rights lawyer who most recently appeared for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Christmas/New Year break
While LGNSW’s work will continue behind the scenes over the holidays, the office will be closing briefly over the Christmas/New Year break. Skeleton staff will be on hand to assist members with any inquiries during the shutdown period, and the actual office will reopen on Monday 10 January.
The Weekly will be back in your inboxes with a Summer Edition scheduled for mid-January but, until then, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and hope you get to enjoy some hard-earned time with your loved ones.
Cr Darriea Turley AM
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