The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) as the collective voice for the 79 local councils in Victoria is calling for sector-wide reform of local government, with the aim of improving community engagement and regional collaboration, in an attempt to secure more equitable funding arrangements from the State and Federal Governments.
In 2003 David Hawker, MP for Wannon (in Victoria) chaired a Federal Parliamentary inquiry into instances of cost shifting between local, state and federal governments. The completed report officially called Rates & Taxes: A Fair Share for Responsible Local Government, but commonly known as the Hawker Inquiry, found that local government was increasingly the victim of cost shifting particularly from State Governments.
As a result the Hawker Inquiry recommended the signing of an Inter-Governmental Agreement with the aim of preventing further instances of cost shifting. In April 2006 the Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed between Federal, State and Local Governments providing local councils a rare opportunity to seek redress to the current imbalance of costs and revenue that exists.
Today I attended a briefing organised by the MAV in its pursuit of furthering the Inter-Governmental Agreement.
Progressing the opportunity presented by the Inter-Governmental Agreement will require local government to identify its core services and to recognise which tier of government is best able to deliver the service expected by the community. For example, in relation to graffiti the State Government would be the best tier to coordinate policy response and monitoring with the empowerment of local government to eradicate and document reported graffiti.
The Inter-Governmental Agreement will only succeed if all tiers of government have the maturity to seek better outcomes for the community. Unfortunately the State Government has typically been the worst culprit in regard to cost shifting and there is little indication that this will change in the near future.
Local Government, has for example, has become involved in kindergartens, aged care facilities and public transport simply due to a reluctance from the State Government to provide adequate investment in such areas. Unfortunately when the State Government uses the word ‘partnership’, such as in the case of school crossing supervisors or walking school bus, it appears to simply be a mechanism to eventually cost shift services onto another tier of government.
Local Government is at the crossroads and is poised to secure a better outcome for the community if it pledges to enhance community facilitation and education on the benefits of widespread reform. The community needs to become actively engaged so that the wider community can map out of the future of their neighbourhoods and recognise which tier of government is responsible for providing the improvements that they seek.
- For further details on Rates & Taxes: A Fair Share for Responsible Local Government (The Hawker Inquiry) please visit the local government publications section of the Federal Government’s Department of Transport and Regional Services (DOTARS) website.