Displaying items by tag: local government

The peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), has welcomed the latest Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) investigation into NSW local council finances — but is urging IPART to undertake a rigorous review of how Federal and State level policy impacts the financial sustainability of Councils.

On 30 January, the NSW Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig announced the government had asked IPART to examine the financial model for councils and key factors impacting councils’ financial sustainability.

“Our concern is the government’s draft terms of reference for the investigation omit critical external factors such as Federal and State Government policies that impact the financial model underpinning local government funding,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“WSROC supports the NSW Government undertaking a rigorous review into the financial resilience of Councils but urges it to focus not just on what can be done better by councils but also on how Federal and State level policy impacts the financial resilience and sustainability of Councils.rapidly growing population

“This is especially important at a time when local councils are under pressure from government to provide more housing, infrastructure and services for rapidly growing populations.

“For example, ‘cost shifting’ by the NSW Government and the Australian Government onto local councils in NSW in the financial year 2015/16 was estimated to have been $820 million — up from an estimated $380 million in 2005/06.

“The NSW Government is responsible for most of the cost shifting, however, with just two per cent attributed to the Australian Government.

“The increase is mainly driven by the NSW Government’s $800 million annual waste levy. 

“So, while the NSW Government shifts responsibility to local government for funding vital services and functions, it ensures the means to funding those services lie with itself.

“We are seeing growing community expectations regarding services and infrastructure delivery, and in a growing region such as Western Sydney, expectations far exceed what current funding mechanisms – in the form of rates, grants and developer contributions – can provide.

“Greater Western Sydney’s population is growing at such a rate that we will need to house more than one million additional people by 2036.

“To address long-term financial pressures and to deliver on community priorities, we especially need the Government to closely examine how Councils can achieve financial sustainability where community expectations are rising and the cost of providing services is increasing at a greater rate than revenue.

“Councils are especially sensitive to a growing liability for unfunded infrastructure - particularly in growth areas such as Western Sydney which is being impacted by growing costs as the climate changes, populations age, technology advances and work patterns change.

“The demand for ever more housing also compounds other significant challenges Western Sydney councils are dealing with, including finding ways to ensure our communities have access to reliable, and affordable energy and rebuilding local infrastructure after recent disasters such as floods and bushfires.

“In October 2019, the NSW Government’s independent, expert panel released a discussion paper, NSW Review of Federal Financial Relations, examining how the NSW and Commonwealth Governments can work to build a stronger economy, encourage state-led reform, and ultimately, deliver better value for taxpayers.

“WSROC is urging the NSW Government to examine how all three levels of government can work together to build a stronger economy and, ultimately, deliver reform that offers better value for taxpayers and ratepayers.

“Particular focus should be given to finding a fairer, more efficient, and more reliable system of Commonwealth and State funding for local government,” said Councillor Calvert.

“A critical shortcoming of the current approach is the lack of focus on how councils’ financial relations with the state and federal governments impact the delivery of both infrastructure and services.

“Ad hoc grants programs must be replaced by longer-term funding streams that are fair and equitable. This will ultimately deliver better community outcomes because councils can plan better.

“As councils in Greater Western Sydney look to the future, the demands of population growth and other internal and external factors are putting ever greater financial pressure on them. Not the least of which is the constant cost-shifting from state to local government,” said Councillor Calvert.

Published in Media releases

Western Sydney councils are on track to save an additional $34 million in street lighting energy costs over the next five years, largely thanks to work by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) and environmental consultancy Ironbark Sustainability.

The savings come after a joint submission by WSROC and Ironbark in response to proposed council street lighting tariffs by Endeavour Energy for the 2024-2029 period.

Endeavour Energy is the electricity distributor for much of Greater Western Sydney, including supplying electricity for streetlights in nine of the region’s council areas.

Western Sydney is one of the most rapidly growing regions in Australia; home to 2.4 million people with its population expected to increase to 4.1 million by 2041.

In their submission to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), WSROC and Ironbark challenged Endeavour Energy’s cost estimates for the maintenance of its streetlighting network in Western Sydney.Liverpool Councillor Karress Rhodes, Blacktown Mayor Tony Bleasdale, and Endeavour Energy Business Services GM Andrew Pitman with a new energy saving LED streetlight

“Endeavour Energy, to their credit, worked collaboratively with WSROC, Ironbark and the AER to propose changes to the streetlight tariffs, reducing the overall cost to councils by $34 million.

“Public street lighting costs ratepayers millions of dollars each year, dominating councils’ energy costs,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“So, anything councils can do to lower the costs of streetlighting will allow them to redirect funding to other projects, infrastructure and wider services.”

“The combined work of WSROC and Ironbark has significantly contributed to the revised position by Endeavour, and we are grateful for that.

“The Australian Energy Regulator determination refers to the WSROC and Ironbark submission in several places, particularly in relation to Endeavour Energy’s estimate of its corporate overheads.

“As a result, Endeavour Energy proposed to revise its divisional and corporate overhead rate from 129.43 per cent to 65.0 per cent." 

“Overall, the impact of the changes is to reduce average operating tariffs by 27 per cent and operating and capital tariffs by 17 per cent from those originally proposed by Endeavour.

The nine communities to benefit in Western Sydney are Blacktown City, Blue Mountains City, Camden, Cumberland City, Hawkesbury City, The Hills Shire, Lithgow City, Liverpool City and City of Parramatta local government areas.

This work is part of the Western Sydney Energy Program, a WSROC-coordinated collaboration between Western Sydney councils to reduce energy use and emissions across the region. 

Ironbark Sustainability has worked with councils and their communities for nearly two decades to reduce greenhouse emissions, tackle climate change and implement sustainability projects and programs.

WSROC also participates in Endeavour Energy’s Peak Customer and Stakeholder Committee meetings and is an independent member of the Regulatory Reference Group that provides feedback to Endeavour Energy and the Australian Energy Regulator as part of an agreed engagement process in the drafting of Endeavour Energy’s Draft Revenue Proposal 2024 – 2029.

***

Published in Media releases

WSROC has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement of a review into the financial model for local government to address rising cost pressures facing councils across the state – but urges fairness and equity.

On Tuesday (30 January), the NSW Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig announced the government has asked the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to examine the financial model for councils and key factors impacting councils’ financial sustainability.

“WSROC, the peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, has for years been urging the NSW Government to review not only its rate-pegging methodology but to look more broadly at the financial resilience of councils,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“To address long-term financial pressures and to deliver on community priorities, we especially need the Government to closely examine how Councils can achieve financial sustainability where community expectations are rising and the cost of providing services is increasing at a greater rate than revenue.

“In October 2019, the NSW Government’s independent, expert panel released a discussion paper, NSW Review of Federal Financial Relations, examining how the NSW and Commonwealth Governments can work to build a stronger economy, encourage state-led reform, and ultimately, deliver better value for taxpayers.

WSROC has been urging the NSW Government to examine how all three levels of government can work together to build a stronger economy and, ultimately, deliver reform that offers better value for taxpayers and ratepayers.

“Particular focus should be given to finding a fairer, more efficient, and more reliable system of Commonwealth and State funding for local government,” said Councillor Calvert.

“We consider such an independent review could provide greater transparency of councils’ financial sustainability.

“A critical shortcoming of the NSW Government’s approach is the lack of focus on how councils’ financial relations with the state and federal governments impact the delivery of both infrastructure and services.

“Ad hoc, sometimes politically expedient, grants programs must be replaced by longer-term funding streams that are fair and equitable. This will ultimately deliver better community outcomes because councils can plan better. 

“Greater Western Sydney’s population is growing at such a rate that we will need to house more than one million additional people by 2036.

“As councils in Greater Western Sydney look to the future, the demands of population growth and other internal and external factors are putting ever greater financial pressure on them. Not the least of which is the constant cost-shifting from state to local government.

“They must also cope with a range of increased levies, such as the Emergency Services Levy, the introduction of State mandated services such as the introduction of FOGO waste services and the continually rising costs of asset maintenance.

“Another galling example is the government forcing councils to fully account for Rural Fire Service assets they neither own nor control — an accounting ploy that makes council ledgers look worse and State Government accounts look better.Bushfires BellsLineRd Credit Hawkesbury City Council SMALL

“Western Sydney councils, like other councils around NSW, have been increasingly burdened by state and federal governments’ expectation that they make a greater contribution towards program delivery.

“In addition, we have seen growing community expectations regarding services and infrastructure delivery, and in a growing region such as Western Sydney, these expectations far exceed what current funding mechanisms – in the form of rates, grants and developer contributions - can provide.

“Recent IPART and Productivity Commission reviews into local government, such as IPART’s ‘Review of Domestic Waste Management Charges’, have taken a piece-meal approach to local government funding, and this limited scope fails to capture ‘whole of business impacts’ or ‘whole of sector’ outcomes.

“Councils are especially sensitive to a growing liability for unfunded infrastructure - whether ‘social’, ‘green’ or ‘grey’ - especially in growth areas such as Western Sydney and significant and growing costs as the climate changes, populations age, technology advances and work patterns change.

“The demand for ever more housing also compounds other significant challenges our councils are dealing with including finding ways to ensure our communities have access to sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy; rebuild local infrastructure after recent disasters such as floods and bushfires; provide reliable and sustainable transport solutions, and so much more.

“While Western Sydney councils are determined to keep rates as low as possible, we are also required to deliver services and infrastructure that our communities expect and deserve.

“We simply cannot do this with a system that appears to be incapable of pre-empting or reacting to a rapidly changing economic landscape.”

“It would be timely for the NSW Government to initiate an independent investigation into the financial model for councils in NSW, including the broader issues highlighted in the Tribunal’s report. It can’t come quick enough!”

Published in Media releases

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) has welcomed the announcement by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) of long overdue reforms to its council rate-pegging methodology, the method by which council rates are capped.

“The proposed new rate peg methodology is both simpler and more realistic than the old method and will hopefully result in council rates that more accurately reflect the changing costs to councils of providing services to their communities,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

WSROC, the peak body representing councils in the Greater Western Sydney region, has for the better part of half a decade been urging the State Government to review not only its rate-pegging methodology but to look more broadly at the financial resilience of Councils.

“We are particularly heartened by IPART’s statement that it would be timely for the NSW Government to initiate an independent investigation into the financial model for councils in NSW, including the broader issues highlighted in the Tribunal’s report on the rate peg methodology.

“To address long-term financial pressures and to deliver on community priorities, we especially need such an independent investigation to closely examine how Councils can achieve financial sustainability where community expectations are rising and the cost of providing services is increasing at a greater rate than revenue.

“In October 2019, the NSW Government’s independent, expert panel released a discussion paper, NSW Review of Federal Financial Relations, examining how the NSW and Commonwealth Governments can work to build a stronger economy, encourage state-led reform, and ultimately, deliver better value for taxpayers.

WSROC has been urging the State Government for a similar review that should examine how all three levels of government can work together to build a stronger economy, encourage reform across all three levels of government, and ultimately, deliver better value for taxpayers and ratepayers.

“Particular focus should be given to finding a fairer, more efficient, and more reliable system of Commonwealth and State funding for local government,” said Councillor Calvert.

“We consider such an independent review could provide greater transparency of councils’ financial sustainability.

“A critical shortcoming of the NSW government’s 2019 discussion paper was its lack of focus on the part played by local government in delivering the services that communities need, and how councils’ financial relations with the state and federal governments impact the delivery of both infrastructure and services.

“In WSROC’s view, any review of the public sector’s capacity to deliver better outcomes for taxpayers and ratepayers must include local government; the primary delivery vehicle of many state and federal programs.

“Ad hoc, sometimes politically expedient, grants programs must be replaced by longer-term programs that are fair and equitable, and that ultimately deliver better community outcomes because Councils can plan better. 

“Greater Western Sydney’s population is growing at such a rate that we will need to house more than one million additional people by 2036.

“As councils in Greater Western Sydney look to the future, the demands of population growth and other internal and external factors are putting ever greater financial pressure on them. Not the least of which is the constant cost-shifting from State to Local Government.

“They must also cope with a range of increased levies, such as the Emergency Services Levy, the introduction of State mandated services such as the introduction of FOGO waste services and the continually rising costs of asset maintenance.

“Western Sydney councils, like other councils around NSW, have been increasingly burdened by the expectation from state and federal governments that councils make a greater contribution towards program delivery.

“In addition, we have seen growing community expectations regarding services and infrastructure delivery, and in a growing region such as Western Sydney, these expectations far exceed what current funding mechanisms – in the form of rates, grants and developer contributions - can provide.

“Recent IPART and Productivity Commission reviews into local government, such as IPART’s ‘Review of Domestic Waste Management Charges’, have taken a piece-meal approach to local government funding, and this limited scope fails to capture ‘whole of business impacts’ or ‘whole of sector’ outcomes.

“Councils are especially sensitive to a growing liability for unfunded infrastructure - whether ‘social’, ‘green’ or ‘grey’ - especially in growth areas such as Western Sydney and significant and growing costs as the climate changes, populations age, technology advances and work patterns change.

“The demand for ever more housing also compounds other significant challenges our councils are dealing with including finding ways to ensure our communities have access to sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy; rebuild local infrastructure after recent disasters such as floods and bushfires; provide reliable and sustainable transport solutions, and so much more.

“While Western Sydney councils are determined to keep rates as low as possible, we are also required to deliver services and infrastructure that our communities expect and deserve.

“We simply cannot do this with a system that appears to be incapable of pre-empting or reacting to a rapidly changing economic landscape.”

“IPART has gotten it very right. It would be timely for the NSW Government to initiate an independent investigation into the financial model for councils in NSW, including the broader issues highlighted in the Tribunal’s report. It can’t come quick enough!”

Published in Media releases

The President of Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), Councillor Barry Calvert, has rejected suggestions that councils are responsible for a slowdown in housing development applications in New South Wales and has called on the NSW Government to improve the overall performance of the state planning system.

“Councils in NSW have approved more than 85,000 new homes in the last 12 months alone — representing 97 per cent of all housing applications submitted to councils. Clearly, councils are fully and actively engaged in processing housing approvals,” said Councillor Calvert.

“The state's housing crisis is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors and blaming councils trivialises the problem.”Housing estate in Western Sydney seen from the air

“The housing crisis in NSW has not been caused by councils but is influenced by factors including shortages of construction materials and labour, rising interest rates, and now falling housing prices.

“Successive failures by NSW governments to consult with local councils are complicating the housing approval process.

“For example, the NSW Government’s e-planning portal through which home-builders prepare, lodge and track development applications was created with very little local government consultation and has been a disaster for local government and home-builders.

“The e-portal has layers of complexity for home-builders, has increased the administrative burden on local government and is plagued by substantial performance deficiencies.

“The e-portal is more like an outdated document management system than a sophisticated and comprehensive e-planning tool.

“Also, I get the impression from home builders that staff turnover in the State Public Service and the difficulty and delays in getting responses from government agencies are contributing to delays and lack of responsiveness in processing housing applications at the Department of Planning.

“The sheer number of agencies and functions within the NSW Department of Planning and Environment cluster, too, is not conducive to efficient Government.

“The span of control and the roles and responsibilities of the Department does not allow for effective oversight of those processes responsible for delivering the State’s planning outcomes.

“Western Sydney councils are urging a review of the State public service’s end-to-end processes and capabilities to identify delays to planning outcomes. 

WSROC has proposed a range of actions the government can take to address the housing and homelessness crisis, including investing in public and social housing, incentivizing owners to return housing stock to the rental market, working closely with councils and communities to plan density effectively, and addressing industry and market barriers to housing supply.

“Solving the housing crisis will require the cooperation of all levels of government rather than finger-pointing, and local government is ready to play its role in addressing the issue,” said Councillor Calvert.

“There’s a need for a more comprehensive and cooperative approach to addressing the housing crisis in New South Wales, involving all stakeholders, rather than placing blame solely on local councils.

Published in Media releases
Friday, 29 September 2023 15:33

Helping councils plan for heatwaves

WSROC, in partnership with Resilient Sydney, has kicked off development of a Heatwave Management Guide to support Greater Sydney councils better prepare for heat.

The Guide is one of a series of projects funded under the Greater Sydney Heat Taskforce.

The Greater Sydney Heat Taskforce is funded under the joint Australian Government — NSW Government National Partnership Agreement on Disaster Risk Reduction.

WSROC President, Clr Barry Calvert said:

 “The need for practical guidance to support local heatwave planning preparedness has never been higher.

“Council staff have told WSROC they are increasingly concerned about the impacts of heat on council operations and community wellbeing.

“Unfortunately, there are currently no standard risk assessment, guidance, or risk management protocols to support councils planning for heat events – whether low intensity or extreme heatwaves.

Councillor Calvert noted that while councils don’t have a clearly defined role in NSW’s emergency arrangements for heatwave, they still need to manage heat impacts.

“Councils have a responsibility to manage community and staff safety across our facilities and ensure business continuity of essential services such as waste, childcare centres and community transport,” he said.

“We know that communities expect councils to support them during times of extreme heat, whether through formal programs or more informal measures such as extending opening hours of cool council facilities.

“Councils need practical, evidence-based guidance to help us understand our options and manage limited resources effectively. This is what the Guide hopes to provide,” said Clr Calvert.

The Heatwave Management Guide will be designed by councils, for councils. We are currently seeking input from staff across all areas of council operations to understand the types of resources, information and guidance they would find useful. This includes areas such as:

  • Emergency and resilience planning
  • Facilities management
  • Community development
  • Communications
  • Governance and administration
  • Strategic planning
  • Human resources

I encourage all councils grappling with this issue to get involved in the Heatwave Management Guide.

Have your say

User needs survey:

The below survey has been designed to help us understand current practice and user needs across all areas of council operations. It takes around 7 minutes to complete.

Survey link here.

 

Co-design workshops:

WSROC will also be running a series of workshops with council staff to help develop the content of the guide. Workshops will cover a range of disciplinary areas. If you would be interested in participating in one of these workshops please contact Kelly Gee (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Published in WSROC news stories

The peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), has applauded the Minns government’s 2023-2024 budget focus on critical infrastructure and housing affordability.

However, Western Sydney councils are urging Premier Minns to meet with them to find better ways to fund the long-term needs of Western Sydney’s rapidly growing population.

“The government’s announcement of a $2.2 billion Housing Infrastructure Plan is a welcome step in the right direction, especially the Minns government’s $1.5 billion commitment to build infrastructure such as roads, parks, hospitals and schools to support the construction of new homes across Sydney,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“Our member councils were very pleased, too, to hear of the government’s $3 billion commitment for long-overdue new and upgraded hospitals in Western Sydney.

“I know, too, many struggling Western Sydney families have welcomed the Premier’s announcement of a $60 weekly toll cap on motorways, as well as the $1 billion investment Sydney Metro City and South West rapid transit project and the $300 million to upgrade trains stations across the transport network to make them more accessible.

“Greater Western Sydney’s population is growing at such a rapid rate that we will need to house more than one million additional people by 2031.

“So, the government’s new $ 38 million Faster Planning Program, $ 224 million Essential Housing Package and $2.2 billion Housing and Infrastructure Plan will all help address the historic neglect of new housing supply across Western Sydney.

“However, our councils will need to find the funds to provide the infrastructure to support housing development to accommodate that extra million people arriving in Western Sydney over the next eight years.

“By 2031, Western Sydney will have more than three million residents. And it will surpass four million by 2041.

“That means the $1.5 billion the government has promised to build infrastructure works out at just $375 per man, woman and child in Australia’s most rapidly growing area.

“That won’t be near enough — and somehow councils will have to find the additional billions of dollars needed to address Western Sydney’s infrastructure and liveability needs.

“The demands of population growth are also putting ever greater financial pressure on councils already trying to cope with a range of increased levies and the rising costs of asset maintenance.

“I’m calling on Premier Minns to meet with WSROC and our member councils to find a way to fix the ongoing financial sustainability crisis confronting local government and does nothing to address the restrictions it puts on council operations and services.

“While Western Sydney councils are determined to keep rates as low as possible, we are also required to deliver services and infrastructure that our communities expect and deserve.

“As councils look to the future, the demands of population growth and other internal and external factors are putting ever greater financial pressure on them.

“Councils and ratepayers will incur significant costs to meet this requirement, with grants provided to councils and fees and charges for council services covering only part of the costs incurred.

“We need the NSW government to join with councils in re-thinking the methodology it employs to calculate the financial needs of councils, including so-called ‘rate capping’.

“With the current annual inflation rate now at nearly 7.0 per cent, the 3.7 per cent rate cap represents a decrease in local communities’ real spending power.

“We need robust, well-resourced councils to ensure that we can deliver for communities – roads libraries, swimming pools and sports fields,” said Councillor Calvert.

Published in Media releases

Eight Western Sydney councils have saved ratepayers tens of millions of dollars – and massively reduced carbon emissions – by working together on local sustainable energy projects and 100% renewable power purchase agreements with energy providers.

The latest annual report by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) – the peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney - reveals that under its Western Sydney Energy Program the eight councils managed to save ratepayers over $36 million since 2019.

The scheme also reduced the councils’ combined greenhouse emissions by 535,714 tonnes — equivalent to taking 124,585 cars off the road each year.

“Contributing to the savings has been the rollout of modern high-tech LED streetlighting across the by the eight council areas,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“By June next year, more than 100,000 streetlights will have been changed to LEDs, that alone saving $16.2 million in estimated regional energy costs annually and reducing carbon emissions by 71,378 tonnes.”

The Western Sydney Energy Program commenced in February 2019 and is a collaboration between Blacktown City Council, Blue Mountains City Council, Camden Council, Cumberland City Council, Hawkesbury City Council, The Hills Shire Council, Liverpool City Council and the City of Parramatta Council.

“The member councils have made excellent progress in reducing energy costs and carbon emissions during the short life of the program,” said Councillor Calvert.Annual Report Cover 2023 drop Shadow and rotate

“And there’s more to come.

“The eight councils have also joined WSROC’s Western Sydney Electric Vehicle (EV) Roadmap, with a focus on assisting councils with EV transition plans, charging for fleet, and advocacy and policy development to support community uptake of EVs.

“Small business has also been a winner. Over 1,000 small businesses in Western Sydney saved on average $1,394 each on energy bills annually by accessing the Business Energy Advice program component.”

“The Western Sydney Energy Program has aligned and maximised the councils’ energy and cost-saving efforts.

“This is absolutely vital as Western Sydney’s rapid population growth and hot climate continue to place increasing pressure on our electricity grid and cause electricity bills to rise.

“Ensuring that Western Sydney is prepared to transition to an energy-efficient, low-carbon future is critical for our communities.

“The Western Sydney Energy Program exists to support participating councils by establishing an aligned position, based on best practice, so that future regional development is both cost-effective and future-proofed with a significantly reduced carbon footprint,” said Councillor Calvert.

To download a copy of the annual report, go to the link — or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a hard copy.

 

 

Published in Media releases