Thank you for 'Red Fleet' support
25 July 22
A big thank you this week to all those who have come out in support of their fellow councils by rejecting the farcical claim that Rural Fire Service assets are the property of councils and should be recorded on their balance sheets.
We continue to hear from a number of you who have passed Mayoral Motions opposing this financial sleight of hand, and others who have resolved they will not bear the depreciation costs for assets over which they have no control.
It’s an issue that has been a thorn in local government’s side for many years and has come to a head after the recent Auditor-General’s Report, which threatens to find councils that do not include the RFS assets on their books as non-compliant.
This warning is diametrically opposed to the NSW Government’s own Local Government Accounting Code of Accounting Practice and Financial Reporting, which states councils are able to choose whether to record this RFS equipment on their books.
We have passed numerous motions at our Annual Conferences affirming our right to choose, as has the Country Mayors Association, and now we’re saying enough is enough.
Until this year some 68 impacted rural and regional councils have refused to record these assets, and an increasing number of fellow councils are set to join them – backed by their metro colleagues.
The Auditor General’s report estimated last year’s asset cost at $145 million, so we are talking about a substantial sum of council funds more appropriately spent on local infrastructure.
It may not be enough to fully fund repairs to our local road network after the flood and widespread rains, but for most of us it would mean a welcome start!
Councils right across NSW continue to fall further and further behind the financial eight-ball as a result of determinations such as this.
We’re facing exactly the same financial pressures as businesses across NSW seeking to recover from a string of natural disasters and the ongoing impact of the COVID pandemic.
Yet we are also expected to bear a rate cap set well below the rate of inflation, which - even with the one-off rate variations of up to 2.5% - really cuts into our ability to deliver services and local infrastructure to our communities at a time when they need it most.
I’d strongly encourage those of you who have yet to consider whether to audit RFS assets and/or include them on your books to do so as soon as possible.
I’d also urge inner-metropolitan councils to continue to pass motions of support for those impacted, which of course include many of our bigger councils on the city fringe. We've drafted a motion of support to get you started.
We are never as influential with Government as when we speak with one voice and by joining together on this issue we have a real opportunity to restore financial transparency and integrity to the accounting process.
Speaking of coming together, the ball is really rolling now in preparation for our upcoming Annual Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.
I know I am really looking forward to joining you all from October 23 to 25, when we’ll work together to shape the sector’s advocacy agenda for the year ahead. With councils under unprecedented financial pressure and a State Government election less than eight months away, the stakes have never been higher.
Registrations are now open, so if you haven't already registered don’t miss the opportunity to do so before Wednesday 17 August 2022 to take advantage of discounted early bird rates.
Also open is the portal to submit Conference Motions, and on the same page you’ll also find links to our existing policy positions, action reports from previous conferences, and a useful motion submission guide.
Meanwhile, a gentle reminder to everyone to add the selection of your voting delegates on the agenda for your July, August, or September council meetings! This will ensure there is sufficient time for your council to provide LGNSW with the names of these voting delegates by the 10 October cut-off deadline.
Please note: the nomination of your voting delegates is completely separate to past registrations for the Special Conference back in February, or the casual board vacancy, which closed last month.
I’m pleased to report that we’ve made some progress on Advocacy Priority #8 – "Invest in better waste, recycling and circular economy solutions” – after meeting with Environment Minister James Griffin last week.
The Minister noted the importance of local government as a partner in delivering on the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy (WaSM) and NSW Plastics Action Plan.
Importantly, he acknowledged our significant concerns about IPART’s proposal to introduce a benchmark peg on the domestic waste management charge, and the impact this would have on councils’ ability to deliver on WaSM and the FOGO mandate, in particular.
It was a productive first step with the relatively new Minister; rest assured we will continue to advocate strongly on your behalf on this and all the other Advocacy Priorities determined by you at our Special Conference in February.
Last call for registration to attend the Local Government Week Awards Dinner on Thursday 4 August at the Fullerton Hotel in Sydney!
This is always a great highlight of Local Government Week and a really great opportunity to celebrate some of the outstanding work being delivered by our council staff.
Gongs will be handed out for innovative communication, events and engagement with our communities; excellence in the fields of arts and culture, and the LGNSW Planning Awards.
I hope you can join us and our wonderful finalists.
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