Victoria

People's Panel report to be embedded in City of Melbourne's 10-Year Financial Plan

RECOMMENDATIONS on revenue and spending priorities from the City of Melbourne's first People's Panel will be embedded into the city's financial strategy for the next decade, after the council last week unanimously agreed to undertake analysis and financial modelling on the recommendations.

The report by the People's Panel, which comprises 43 randomly selected people, will be embedded as a whole into the draft 10-Year Financial Plan, including an explanation as to if, how, and the extent to which, each recommendation could be acted upon.

Council House 2
Photo: City of Melbourne's Council House 2 (CH2) building / by Alpha.

A draft of the city's first 10-Year Financial Plan, including the 21 recommendations of the People's Panel, is due be considered by council in April next year.

Councillor Stephen Mayne, Chair of Council's Finance and Governance Portfolio, said the innovative process included two significant firsts for Council.

"For the first time, we asked a People's Panel of every day Melburnians to give us detailed advice on spending and revenue priorities for the next decade to inform Council's first 10-Year Financial Plan," Cr Mayne said.

"The work the People's Panel have done deserves to be embedded in the 10-Year Financial Plan in full, and while Council remains the ultimate decision-maker, we will be very clear on whether we accept certain People's Panel recommendations or not, and why."

Cr Mayne thanked the People's Panel for delivering a considered report that would help Council develop a long-term financial strategy that looks beyond the yearly budget cycle.

"The People's Panel have given us very clear advice and guidance and it is a testament to the quality of that advice that we are incorporating the panel's recommendations into the draft 10-Year Financial Plan in full," Cr Mayne said.

"No government is adopting a business as usual approach to the allocation and prioritisation of resources within the context of climate change, population growth, advances in technology and a volatile global economy.

"We undertook this process to encourage people to help Council make more consultative decisions and what we have is a report that addresses all of these challenges and opportunities."

The Panel's 21 recommendations are:

1. Rates

1.1 The People's Panel 2014 acknowledges that rate rises are required in order to meet both operating and capital budget requirements. The panel recommends that rates be increased by CPI plus up to 2.5% pa for the next 10 years.

2. Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change

2.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that as a matter of priority the City of Melbourne allocate the necessary (increased) funding to its plans to address climate change, so as to protect our existing assets, systematically reduce our carbon footprint (pro rata), maintain the liveability within the city and provide leadership on this issue within the municipality.

3. Activate City

3.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that the City of Melbourne maintain the same high standard and quality level of service to activate the City of Melbourne. This encompasses marketing of City of Melbourne, events and activation of spaces.

4. Asset Portfolio

4.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends the City of Melbourne review the property asset portfolio and sell non-core assets. The aim is to reduce the size of the property portfolio and release capital.

4.2 The People's Panel 2014 recommends City of Melbourne retains Citywide.

5. Queen Victoria Market Redevelopment

5.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends funding should be considered in covering the cost of the QVM development subject to a realistic feasibility on the rate of return and improved end value in terms of social, economic and environmental outcomes.

6. Borrowing

6.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that debt finance may be used to finance growth infrastructure, special projects and major asset renewal where prompt action can prevent rapidly escalating costs. However, the overall debt levels should be constrained so as to maintain an AA credit rating or better.

7. Bike Lanes and Footpaths

7.1 Bicycle Lanes

7.1.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that more bicycle lanes with physical barriers should be installed in the City of Melbourne by reducing car lanes, removing on-street car parking bays, and introducing some one-way streets within the next 5 years. Elizabeth Street, St Kilda Road, Southbank Riverbank, and Grattan Street should be given priority.

7.1.2 The People's Panel 2014 noted a minority report that the City of Melbourne builds large bicycle shelters at entry points to the CBD to increase the number of cyclists converting to pedestrian traffic. Close to the boat sheds across from Flinders Street Station, Carlton Gardens, and near La Trobe Street in Docklands should be considered as possible locations.

7.2 Footpaths

7.2.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends increasing CBD footpath accessibility within the next 5 years by increasing footpath width and ease of access by removing obstructions, such as relocating parking options for motorcycles, ensuring businesses are complying with space regulations, and customers don't block ease of movement while waiting. Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street should be prioritized.

8. Advocacy

8.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that the City of Melbourne advocate to improve public transport and infrastructure within the City of Melbourne.

8.2 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that the City of Melbourne advocate increasing the number of mainstream public primary and secondary schools within the City of Melbourne to meet population growth demand.

8.3 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that the City of Melbourne advocate increasing parking rates and taxes to reduce car usage and congestion in the CBD.

8.4 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that the City of Melbourne increase the minimum standard requirements for new public open space for high growth areas to 10% of land value.

8.5 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that the City of Melbourne lobby State Government within the next 12 months for greater control of developments and developer contributions.

8.6 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that the City of Melbourne must increase the Developer Contribution to closer align with Sydney and Brisbane in order to increase their contribution towards the funding of infrastructure and community services.

8.7 The People's Panel 2014 recommends that the City of Melbourne advocate to have control all building planning and permission processes transferred to the City of Melbourne especially in relation to the policy of developments above 25,000 square metres.

8.8 The People's Panel 2014 recommends the City of Melbourne advocate for increased services to the elderly, indigenous, vulnerable, homeless, disabled and to the youth support services.

9. Community Services

9.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends the City of Melbourne maintain the provision of all its community services to at least current service levels over the next 10 years.

10. Operational Efficiency

10.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends the City of Melbourne should continue to implement the LEAN program for operational efficiencies. This should have a target reduction in expenditure equal to an annually compounding of at least 1% efficiency dividend 2015–2024 (inclusive) based on the previous year's performance.

11. Capital Works

11.1 The People's Panel 2014 recommends the City of Melbourne reduces expenditure on new capital works by 10% over the 10 year budget period.

More information is available from the City of Melbourne's Participate Melbourne website at <http://participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au/projects/10yearplan/>.

Photo: 'Council House 2 - Windows Open' / Alpha / Licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0.

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