6 June 2023
Major concerns for the financial sustainability of our sector
With the new session of Parliament now well underway it will come as no surprise that there is a great deal of news and information to share this week, including a significant number of major issues for the financial sustainability of our sector.
The impact of the Emergency Services Levy on each and every council, the ongoing and vexed issue of the Red Fleet accounting methodology, a Parliamentary inquiry into local water utilities – these are just three the issues councils are grappling with in an incredibly difficult economic climate.
I have written to the Minister for Local Government, the Hon Ron Hoenig, to offer a full briefing on the financial sustainability challenges we face: a briefing which is not only timely but critical following the Minister’s comments in Parliament last week.
Rate Peg Methodology Review
Many of you will be aware that the IPART today released the Draft Report from the Review of Rate Peg Methodology. A preliminary review of the recommendations shows a pleasing recognition of the problems with the existing methodology. There is certainly room for optimism that the final IPART Report will act on our sector’s long-term advocacy to reform this process so it is fit for purpose.
I would urge all councils to take a look at this Draft Report, and to provide feedback to LGNSW as soon as possible within the 28-day discussion period. We will collate that input for a submission to the IPART, ahead of what I am confident will continue to be productive discussions on this issue. To provide input or feedback for our submission on behalf of the sector, please email LGNSW Chief Economist Shaun McBride.
Proposed legislative amendments for Emergency Services Levy
For so many of us, the 2023/24 increase in the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) will largely, if not wholly, absorb the rate peg increase for the year, placing significant restrictions on our ability to fund community projects, provide staffing resources or deliver much-needed asset maintenance within our local areas.
I recently met with the Treasurer, Minister Dib and Minister Hoenig to reinforce the sector’s concerns about the ESL and the very real financial implications this added burden will have on councils and communities.
In follow up to that meeting I have written to all three, re-emphasising our request for the subsidy to be reinstated and providing them with a set of proposed legislative amendments to decouple the ESL from the Rate Peg. This would enable councils to recover the full cost of this significant financial impost.
Given the potential flow on adverse impacts that will impact every community across NSW, I will be treating this issue as a matter of urgency and will keep you all updated as we seek support right across Parliament to achieve a fairer funding arrangement.
Thank you to all of the many councils that have passed a mayoral minute and written letters on this matter to the government, your local MPs and IPART.
Destination and Visitor Economy Conference
Congratulations to Northern Beaches Council for helping LGNSW deliver a superlative Destination and Visitor Economy Conference in Manly last week. It was fantastic to join more than 250 council staff, mayors and councillors working hard to build tourism in their LGA, and to hear from a cracking line-up of specialists on marketing, leveraging the 24-hour economy, events-based visitation and technology trends, including the role AI can play in supporting the visitor experience. A Conference photo gallery is now available on LGNSW’s Facebook Page.
View photo gallery
Congratulations also to the successful bidders to co-host next year’s DVE Conference! With more than 1.3 million visitors to the region annually, Wagga Wagga City Council, Coolamon Shire Council and Junee Shire Council put together a terrific bid and I congratulate them on the opportunity to draw more eyes to the region.
Wagga + Surrounds DVE 2024 will run from 28 – 30 May 2024; contact the LGNSW Events Team if you are interested in sponsorship or speaking opportunities.
Annual AR Bluett Award
Submissions have now opened for the coveted AR Bluett Memorial Awards, identifying the best metropolitan and regional/rural council in our state.
Councils are judged on their achievements and relative progress in the 2022/2023 financial year, with the winners announced at the LGNSW Annual Conference in November.
Entries close on Monday 31 July, and you can find more information on the application process on our website.
Parliamentary inquiry into local water utilities
The Premier and Minister for Water last week announced they had secured support for a Parliamentary Inquiry to examine what can be done to safeguard and support regional water utilities. This includes preventing privatisation, as well as an examination of any additional protections these assets might require now and into the future.
LGNSW is committed to the protection of local government ownership and management of local water utilities, and it was encouraging to see this support for local ownership expressed across the Parliament last week.
While the Inquiry’s terms of reference are not yet available, I cautiously welcome this Government move, and particularly appreciate the firm commitment to consult with councils.
Environment Awards 2023
I'm pleased to announce the LGNSW Excellence in the Environment Awards 2023 are now open, offering a great chance to showcase your council's outstanding achievements in managing and protecting the environment.
The 14 Award categories cover projects undertaken between January 2022 to June 2023, with winners to be announced at a Finalists Forum and Ceremony on Tuesday 5 December in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Entries close 5pm, Monday 31 July, and in the interim you can find more information on our website.
With the housing crisis still the number one topic right across Australia I can report that LGNSW is currently contributing to discussions on the Federal Government’s Housing Accord announced in October 2022.
We’re working through ALGA (which represents councils on the Accord) and with NSW’s own Department of Planning and Environment to help ensure there is genuine consultation with councils throughout the process.
Already, the Department has held workshops with two small groups of metro and regional council planners seeking feedback on the barriers to housing supply and ideas/solutions to address them.
All NSW councils should have now received an invitation from the National Housing Finance Investment Corporation to an online engagement session on the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF). The session will discuss key elements of the HAFF, including how the application process could work and potential opportunities for local government engagement and participation.
For further information or if you have not received the invitation, please contact NHFIC.
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