The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC
Fasten Your Seatbelts
The increases in general cost of living expenses are starting to bite throughout the community.
This is on top of Rate Capping for many municipalities, supply chain issues, and the increasing realization that Federal and State Governments projected massive infrastructure plans for the next few years, will continue to suck the energy out of the private sector, and its capacity to manage and deliver projects for Councils and the general public.
If we thought the last few years have been difficult, COVID, the availability of labour, costs and supply, that is nothing compared to the increasing challenges we are all going to have to confront over the next two years at least.
For Councils, their elected representatives and administrators, it is as though they are caught in a pincer movement.
On one hand many of their ratepayers will be looking to their Council for support in a variety of ways as they the ratepayers have financial difficulty managing and meeting their obligations.
On the other hand, for Councils the cost of providing services will continue to rise, the availability of the qualified people to actually provide the services, and the challenge of maintaining public assets let alone providing more, will become almost impossible as the government infrastructure projects, mainly on the eastern seaboard, continue to absorb labour and products into their vortex. Not to mention the inflationary pressure those projects are having on salaries.
For four Victorian regional areas, Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley where those Councils had started to spend money to host ingredients of the Commonwealth Games in their regions, the cancellation of the Games has left them with monies spent, for some ongoing financial obligations, and absolutely nothing to show for that expenditure.
In Tasmania, yet again the government has abandoned the process they had commenced to restructure their local government sector. It will retain 29 Councils for a total Tasmanian population of 550,000. An average of 19,000 ratepayers per Municipality.
If that situation is to remain, there needs to be a new emphasis on shared services within and between the 29 Councils, otherwise the cost to ratepayers will rise dramatically, just to support the increased costs of the administration employed within each council.
Finally in Victoria, the government has introduced a “settlement agreement” which would give an Indigenous group unprecedented control over 10 Victorian rural councils. Take away their rights to govern. Early days but this group, the Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC) may have the authority to override the will of the elected Councillors and their administrations.
As I said Municipalities are in for a very challenging two years.
Whatever happened to the days when Councils were responsible for roads, rubbish and rates?
Of course, good administrators cannot be all things to all people. Councils will have to open and transparent with their ratepayers when discussing the challenges Councils will face.
Some of the hard decisions may have to be made, as Councils cannot be all things to all people all the time.
Sometimes you have to be tough to be fair and kind.
The next two years are going to test us all.
That said, stay healthy and optimistic. The good times will come again.
The Hon Jeff Kennett AC
CT Management Group