These eight points aim to provide the platform for local government to deliver for communities wherever in Victoria they live. They are part of the 2015 Ministerial 17-point action plan to reform Victorian local government.
The strategic areas for action in the Ministerial Statement are supported by a 17-point action plan.
Local government reform actions 10-17: delivering for communities
Action 10: Fair Go Rates System
Over the past 15 years the average increase in rates and charges per assessment across Victorian councils was 6% each year.
This is unsustainable and the government has acted to contain this, announcing a rates cap of 2.5% for the 2016-17 financial year.
Action 11: Interface Growth Fund
Melbourne's ten interface council areas are facing unprecedented growth. Together, they will accommodate 46% of the state's population growth between now and 2031.
The government's Growing Suburbs Fund commits $50 million in 2016-17 to reduce the infrastructure gap in the fastest-growing councils in Victoria.
It delivers on an election commitment to establish a dedicated fund to help outer-suburban communities build local infrastructure projects, such as family and community centres, town centres, parks and reserves, playgrounds and community facilities.
The fund is a vital element in the government's plan to reduce cost of living pressures for struggling families while maintaining service levels and infrastructure investment in areas of high need.
Action 12: A better deal for rural councils
Rural councils face significant challenges and greater dependency on Commonwealth Government and State Government grants makes them more vulnerable to shifts in policy at higher levels of government.
The government's Regional Statement is about supporting regional and rural families and communities. One example is government working with rural councils through programs such as the Networked Rural Councils initiative to explore a range of strategies to address the particular challenges they face.
Government will extend funding for Rural Councils Victoria to innovate and implement sustainable business practices across their members. The government will also advocate for the Commonwealth Government to reinstate indexation of financial assistance grants and consider options which would allow for redirection of Victorian Grants Commission funds to the most vulnerable rural councils.
The government's $500 million Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund also provides a vital boost to Victoria's rural and regional councils.
Action 13: Improving our libraries
Public libraries are the heart of the community, providing a non-judgmental, safe space to support strong and connected communities.
We are undertaking a critical review of public libraries to establish optimum future funding arrangements for Victorian libraries. The review will examine options for shared service delivery to provide Victorians with accessible, modern libraries that meet community needs now and into the future.
Action 14: Integrate service planning and coordinate infrastructure investment programs
Victorian councils invest over $2 billion in infrastructure annually. Their four-year investment strategies are articulated in their Strategic Resource Plans (SRPs).
The government is using the platform provided by SRPs to better integrate State and local government investments and improve outcomes for local communities. This is especially critical in growth areas and regional cities where we can connect new transport to services, co-locate related services and make assets work to full capacity. Applying this knowledge to investment decisions improves outcomes, protects liveability and stimulates local economies.
Action 15: Support disadvantaged jobseekers and strengthen social procurement
Victorian councils are the largest employer in many areas of regional Victoria and employ over 50,000 Victorians across our state. They provide training and work experience which equips workers with skills to transition into the wider economy.
Government is establishing a range of strategic partnerships with the local government sector to support key employment objectives. Government employment programs for young, entry-level jobseekers linked to structured vocational training and accreditation through Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) providers will be enhanced. The government will also work with councils to give priority access through procurement policies to suppliers who provide local jobs. This will support local economies and boost local employment, particularly in areas of high unemployment.
Action 16: Implement an Aboriginal Local Government Action Plan
The Victorian Aboriginal and Local Government Action Plan is an important resource for councils across the state. It recognises, celebrates and shares good practice and presents a practical framework to help councils:
- improve relationships with Aboriginal communities;
- promote reconciliation; and
- engage Aboriginal people in planning, decision-making, employment, programs and services.
Local Government Victoria has developed the plan in consultation with councils and Aboriginal communities. Through the consultation process, nominations were sought from the community for best practice initiatives happening around the state, to be showcased as case studies in the plan. These cases studies, along with a list of resources and guidelines, mean the plan provides important guidance while being a useful and practical resource.
Local government is central to the achievement of the economic, equity and liveability outcomes for all Victorians. Like State and Federal Governments, councils have a critical role to play in closing the gap in life chances for Aboriginal Victorians: this is a goal that simply cannot be achieved without local government as a partner.
Existing good practice in engaging with Aboriginal communities is already being shared via the Maggolee website.
Action 17: Strengthen local support for social inclusion
As the level of government closest to communities, councils should reflect the make-up of the communities they serve including women, young people, people with disabilities, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Women continue to be under-represented as councillors. Diversity in local government ensures a greater mix of insights and experiences shape more relevant policy and effective programs. The government is backing efforts by peak organisations to increase the diversity of candidates standing for the 2016 council elections through promotional and mentoring programs.
Councils provide critical services and exposure to meaningful local democratic expression for young people through funding for generic youth workers and support for youth councils. They are often the most immediate and primary experience of the democratic process and deliver the support services which allow young people opportunities to participate socially and economically in their communities. This work is vital for the future health of civil society and will be strongly supported.
Councils make an important contribution to the inclusion of people with disabilities in their local communities. As the National Disability Insurance Scheme is rolled out, harmonising the reforms with programs delivered by councils, such as home and community care and support for children with disabilities, is critical. The government will work with councils to improve the autonomy, independence and social inclusion of Victorians with disabilities.
Councils play an important role in promoting and supporting multiculturalism in Victoria. They have a strong track record in partnering with the Victorian Government to achieve social inclusion of culturally and linguistically diverse Victorians. The government will support council leadership in fostering integration of multi-faith groups, building community harmony and minimising risks of extremism. Government will strengthen collaboration through the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship as part of its wider strategic approach.