Guideline principles released for local government reform
Tasmanians for Reform has released a set of guiding principles in the call for local government reform.
Tasmanians for Reform Chairwoman Mary Massina said the aim of the guidelines was to highlight the benefits to the Tasmanian community that could be achieved if local government became more efficient.
“Tasmanians for Reform is calling for meaningful changes to local government that will see improved services, greater capacity and reduced costs,” Ms Massina said.
“The principles highlight that local government reform is not about destroying the sector, but is in-fact about making it better.”
Ms Massina said the principles called for structural efficiency, cutting the cost of living as well as improving customer services, infrastructure, transparency and skills of council employees while reducing financial inequities and governance costs.
“Since Tasmanians for Reform launched last year, the response by local government has been disappointing,” Ms Massina said.
“Instead of seeing local government reform as an opportunity, it has been rejected wholeheartedly but with no suggestion of any alternatives.
“Even when local government’s own taxpayer and ratepayer funded $300,000 report suggested savings of up to 15 per cent from the creation of a greater Hobart council, they STILL appear to be moving to reject it.”
Ms Massina said local government reform was about achieving structural efficiency to allow councils to achieve financial independence while also reducing the burden on ratepayers.
“It is about bringing down the cost of business and the cost of living, while making customer service front and centre of all council activities,” Ms Massina said.
“This is about reducing governance costs and ensuring equity and transparency as well as improving infrastructure outcomes while also addressing water and sewerage reform inequities.
“We want to see an improvement of skills and career opportunities for council employees as well as adopting best practice.”
Ms Massina said despite what local government might claim reform was simply about better services, better infrastructure and reduced costs.
Tasmanians for Reform is the largest coalition of its kind in Tasmanian history, with peak organisations representing chemists, car dealers, plumbers, hoteliers, real estate agents, small businesses, hair dressers and butchers, just to name a few.
Guideline Principles for the Introduction of Local Government Reform
There are eight local government reform principles which should govern all modelling of future local government structures in Tasmania. The principles are as follows:
Principle 1: Achieving structural efficiency
Structural efficiency is the only model which will offer an increased capacity to provide better services and improved infrastructure, reduce governance costs, improve council efficiencies, increase council financial independence and reduce cost imposts on ratepayers.
Principle 2: Bringing down the cost of business and the cost of living
Increasing council rates and increasing utility charges are having a severe impact on cost of living pressures on families and small and medium businesses’ viability.
Principle 3: Customer service front and centre of all council activities
The interests of ratepayers must take precedence over anything else when considering how services are delivered and infrastructure provided to communities across Tasmania.
Principle 4: Reducing governance costs and ensuring equity and transparency
Council governance costs are disproportionate to the functions, service standards and infrastructure provision local government is charged to deliver. Furthermore, there is no equity or transparency to the delivery of those services across 29 councils.
Principle 5: Improving infrastructure outcomes
Infrastructure provision and standards of maintenance are increasingly underfunded and there is no prospect of improvement under existing structural and governance arrangements.
Principle 6: Water and sewerage reform financial inequities
Reform of water and sewerage will over time significantly improve the quality of water and sewerage services, reduce the substantial backlog of infrastructure and achieve pricing equity but the reform is being seriously impeded by the siphoning off of dividends and income tax equivalents to councils.
Principle 7: Improving skills and creating career opportunities for council employees
Structural efficiency will reduce governance and administrative overheads, improve economies of scale and capacity and importantly improve frontline services and employee employment conditions.
Principle 8: Adoption of best practice
Local government should be managed on best practice principles and discharge their responsibilities with integrity, transparency and full accountability to ratepayers.