The Andrews Labor Government has accepted key recommendations from a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Victoria’s rural and regional councils.
Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek today tabled the Labor Government’s response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Sustainability and Operational Challenges of Victoria’s Rural and Regional Councils and provided an update on the inquiry into the rating system.
The Government is currently implementing the Inquiry’s first recommendation to deliver an independent review to improve the fairness and equity of Victoria’s rating system, including investing $600,000 for the review in the Victorian Budget 2019/20.
Two additional members on the rate review panel were announced today, with the appointment of Dr Ron Ben-David and John Tanner AM, who will support Dr Kathy Alexander.
Mr Tanner has significant local government experience as Commissioner of the Shire of Delatite, Administrator for Brimbank City Council and Commissioner of the Inquiry into Ararat Rural City Council.
Dr Ben-David is a former Chairperson of the Essential Services Commission and has expertise in regulatory frameworks for essential services across Victoria in water, gas, electricity, taxi, freight and local government.
Work is also underway to help rural councils become more sustainable through the $20 million Rural Councils Transformation Program, which will strengthen councils’ long-term capacity to deliver better services through cooperation.
The Parliamentary Inquiry also found that the Federal Government’s indexation-freeze on Financial Assistance Grants from 2013 to 2016 is still hurting Victoria’s regional and rural councils, adding up to a $290 million cut over the past six years.
The Government will continue to advocate to the Federal Government for the need to increase funding to compensate for the freeze in indexation of the Financial Assistance Grants pool for four years.
The Inquiry report and Government response is available at parliament.vic.gov.au/council.
As noted by Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek
“Over the past few months I have visited 18 of Victoria’s smallest Shires to see first hand the work they do to support their communities.”
“Every one of the Shires I visited showed passion for their area and work hard to make sure their services reflect the needs of their community.”
As stated by Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes
“Our regional and rural councils cover more than 95 per cent of Victoria and represent around 1.5 million residents – that’s why we’re delivering the support needed to make our councils stronger and more sustainable.”