By Michael Burton, editorial director of Municipal Journal, the UK’s weekly news magazine for local government, based in London, UK.
British politics may be obsessed with Brexit right now but there is another controversy looming – local government finance. Ministers ignore it at their peril; the last major shake-up of local government finance in the UK led to the downfall of Margaret Thatcher.
In brief, the British government wants to let the 353 local authorities in England keep the income they raise from taxes on local business (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own systems).
by Mark Evans, Director, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis
Donald Trump’s presidential victory has given rise to a global democratic paradox. For the growing number of citizens worldwide who feel increasingly disconnected from their democracy and are victims of the hard edges of globalisation, the Trump victory demonstrates that it is possible to challenge the established political order through democratic politics and win. For democrats committed to social, economic and political participation, Trump himself symbolises the very anti-thesis of democratic politics. Trump is a divisive figure – an authoritarian populist who draws his support by creating a politics based on fear and hate for fellow Americans. The lessons from history are clear; if we allow the politics of fear and hate to catch fire it will not end well.
Yesterday we held our first Showcase at Old Parliament House in Canberra, to talk about the City Deal policy, how local government can collaborate with other levels of government to maximise outcomes for communities. Members of the LG Professionals Australia Board, other local government professionals, respected academics and representatives of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet all attended to discuss the City Deals policy, get a better understanding of the transferable learning from the UK and the Australian deals currently in negotiation, and discuss frameworks that can make City Deals successful.
Many aspects of the policy, such as deal negotiation, the social aspects and impacts, the decision-making nexus within Australia's federated system of government, how to engage the community, and how to translate the policy vision into procedures and processes that live up to that potential were covered. Over the next few weeks, we will deciminate as much of the thinking, content and subsequent analysis as possible. Keep an eye on the Resource Hub for more.
Lastly, let me say what a great opportunity this was to come together to make the most of the expertise within our sector so that local government can participate in the rollout of City Deals effectively. Thanks also to Professors Gerry Stoker, Mark Evans and Graham Sansom, who offered insightful analysis of the UK experience and a way forward, while still managing to be both witty and realistic.
Lauren Oakey, CEO LG Professionals Australia, Ricki Bruhn, CEO City of Palmerton NT, and Deputy President of LG Professionals Australia, Professor Gerry Stoker, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis and University of Southampton, and Professor Mark Evans, Director of the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis.
Recently our partner, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) conducted a survey in the US together with the Smart Cities Council to learn more about the priorities and activities of U.S. local governments related to smart-city technologies.
The Smart Cities Council defines smart cities as communities that use information and communication technology to enhance liveability, workability, and sustainability. Here are some of the findings:
Local governments – in Australia and around the world – are facing budget restraints at exactly the same time expectations and need are ratcheting skywards. With the Turnbull Government focusing on digital services and smart cities, and attaching much new funding to technology, innovative and collaborative projects, it is essential for leaders across our sector to find new ways and platforms to deliver the important programs our communities are calling out for.
Congress 2017 will be a great opportunity to find out more about LG innovators, as well as cross sector and cross discipline collaborations incorporating tech and small cutting edge companies doing things differently, and focusing on outcomes rather than processes.
In preparation, the following article on collaborations between startups and the public service, says 'process is what is stifling the creative process which is messy and uncharted but leads to new ways of tackling problems'.
Dennis Hovenden, CEO, Frankston City Council, LG Professionals Australia Director, and ICMA Executive Board member was recently interviewed at the ICMA Conference in Kansas City by online engagement specialists, OurSay.
Good Practice in Local Government – and great insights from the Australian recipient of the LG Professionals Australia International Exchange
by Anneka Ferguson, Dorset Council, Tasmania
Transparency… For some reason this is not something local government has been very good at in the past. But transparency in local government is critical for building trust in our communities, for facilitating well-informed decision-making, and for providing accountability amongst both our elected members and employed operational staff. Coconino County in Arizona, USA, have been actively working towards improved communications and more open practices that allow their community to actively participate and engage with local government.
This video shows some fantastic examples of the ethos of this local government organisation, demonstrating their passion to create better communities, and to support and change lives.
The Corkman Irish Hotel was demolished by a developer without a permit.
Photo credit: ABC News – Gloria Kalache
In October a developer demolished the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton without the appropriate planning permits. Suddenly Melbourne sat up and took notice. Within hours the story was front page news in the media – both traditional and social – with reactions from the Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne, the Minister for Planning, the Opposition planning spokesperson, a heritage experts, the president of Melbourne Heritage Action, two local government candidates, and Melbourne University students who frequented the pub, while an online petition was created on Change.org.
When waste materials containing asbestos from the site were found dumped in Cairnlea, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. A large fine was issued, and calls were made to have the developer restore the building, and for the planning laws to be changed to allow penalties that act as a clear deterrence. That's the thing! Several town planners have told me that the property boom has embedded such huge profits into many developments that the fines for acting outside the planning regulations are simply factored into the cost of doing business. As an example of this, an expert quoted in The Age said that the site's value doubled by removing the existing structure. In that case, a fine alone is not much deterrent for an unethical developer. With the focus the Corkman has brought to planning, it will be fascinating to see what policy changes will be implemented.
In a recent speech to the Regional Australia Institute, the Hon Angus Taylor MP, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation discussed the government’s Smart Cities policy and the City Deals funding agreements.
I recently attended SOLGM Conference in Auckland, and found plenty to be inspired by with its theme, Inspiring Leadership. One of the keynote presentations was by Monica Barone, titled City of Sydney ‘Inspiring Sydney’. Especially given this year’s announcement of Australia’s first 3 City Deals, Monica’s perspective has particular relevance.
This is outlined in the policy of Sustainable Sydney 2030 – the policy itself is based on community responses to the question, what do you value? – with its goal of moving the city towards the goals of it being green, global and connected.
The Smart Cities and Suburbs Program was announced by the Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, the Hon Angus Taylor MP, on 18 August this year. Several roundtables with local government representatives have just been completed, and the next stage is local governments submitting a short pitch for their project idea – which makes the story very timely.
Projected to be worth $50 million, the program will support local governments to fast-track innovative technology solutions that improve long-standing urban problems. It seeks to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of urban service delivery, infrastructure and planning to improve the livability of cities and their suburbs.
According to the minister, a wide variety of cutting-edge projects will be supported under the program, such as collaborative design of solutions to complex urban problems, pilots of emerging technologies, the implementation of technologies at scale, and business case development. Perhaps the most valuable projects will be transformative collaborations between multiple councils and technology industry partners that link closely with future plans for the area.
Interestingly, several other countries are introducing Smart Cities programs. Our partner in the USA, ICMA, recently conducted a survey gauging local government priorities and activities regarding Smart Cities.
LG Professionals Australia President, Andrew Wardlaw spoke at the ICMA International Affiliates Meeting in Kansas, USA at the end of last month.
In his presentation Andrew considered how local governments in Australia are expanding the services they offer in response to community needs and expectations, to support economic growth, social cohesion and community building,
However, the sector is also operating under significant pressures including amalgamations and an infrastructure backlog (estimated at $20 billion). These are exacerbated by state mandated rate-caps – impacting approximately half of councils’ own revenues – and grant freezes.
The other major concern facing Australian local governments is its workforce, including the stark realities:
Leadership positions within local government have traditionally been held by men, however, in Australia, and around the world, a growing number of stereotype-challenging women have been elected to the very visible position of mayor. Others have earned their places as CEOs or heads of departments within their councils. One of the barriers to women taking leadership roles is simply that people assume leaders are men, simply because they see men in leadership roles so often.
Dorothy Thornhill, mayor of Watford in England for the past 14 years, is one of just four directly elected female mayors in England. “People think leadership equals male characteristics,” she says. “The idea that you have to be this macho-type of person is still around.” As mayor, she has played against this type, and laughs about how when she was on a school visit a child shouted out, “You ain’t no mayor! You ain’t a fat bald geezer with a chain!”
Every female leader helps widen the community's perception of what a leader looks like, and how a leader behaves. Cr Samantha Ratnam is Moreland City Council Mayor for the 2015-16 Council year.
LG Professionals Australia launched our first online engagement campaign a couple of months ago. We wanted to know what you, local government practitioners, wanted to tell the Federal Government. And now, as we take the results of our campaign to Canberra, and film the responses to your questions with the Hon Fiona Nash, Minister for Local Government and Territories, it's also a good time to reflect on what we've learned about online engagement, and how it works with our more traditional forms of reaching out to our community.
While we wait for Fiona Nash's responses, read the blog from our partner, online engagement specialists, OurSay. They have a very practical understanding of what works and what doesn't, when it comes to reaching out and really listening to your community.
** And I'm posting the intro video we used for our campaign here again too .... because it's awesome!
CEO, LG Professionals Australia.