The Financial Plan provides a 10 year financially sustainable projection regarding how actions in the Council Plan may be funded to achieve the Community Vision. The Asset Plan details how resources owned under the control of the Council will be maintained, renewed, acquired, expanded, upgraded, disposed of or decommissioned over the next decade.
We convened a Community Panel to help develop these plans. The Panel’s recommendation for financial options and suggestions for assets will help us develop the 10 Year Financial and Asset Plans (2021 –2031), as required by the Local Government Act 2020 (LGA Act).
On 28 July and 4 August, a diverse group of community members met online to consider, question, discuss and deliberate financial options and service categories of infrastructure assets owned by Council.
Who we heard from
One hundred people expressed interest to participate in the Panel. A final group of 26 was randomly selected from this list to be broadly representative of the City of Melbourne’s many communities. This number allowed for the opportunity for maximum participation in the two three-hour online sessions. Twenty-four Panel members came to the first session and 22 to the second. Panel members received a small stipend for their participation.
What we heard
As the City of Melbourne’s budget for the next four years (FY22 to FY25) is set already, the panel’s remit was to deliberate on City of Melbourne’s financial plan from FY26 onwards.
The panel recommended that the imperative of the City of Melbourne is to preserve or improve current level of services, and continue to invest in the community to ensure the achievement of the Community Vision.
As a result, the panel preferred to repay debt slowly, rather than faster, as there were concerns that steps taken to repay debt may negatively impact the Community Vision and its delivery. However, the panel acknowledges that if there is an opportunity to pay back debt faster, it is something that the City of Melbourne should consider.
Overall, the panel was supportive of our approach to classifying assets. However, they felt we needed more clarity on some asset categories.
The main themes included:
- the importance of bringing back the buzz, and how the assets can support this
- future purchasing of important buildings
- accessing assets
- agility in purchasing assets
- safety for all ages
- supporting people experiencing homelessness.
We will incorporate this feedback into the development of the Asset Plan and commit to the following actions:
- Reviewing asset category names and descriptions to better reflect the community understanding of these terms.
- Developing a community consultation model to determine better asset service levels desired by the community in preparing the next Asset Plan.
City of Melbourne staff and Councillors will consider the recommendations for the Financial Plan and the suggestions for the Asset Plan from the Community Panel.
The Community Panel will have an opportunity to review the drafts and give additional feedback.
The final plans will be considered by Council in October.
After incorporating feedback from the community panel, City of Melbourne implemented a consultation process to ensure consideration and feedback was received from relevant stakeholders.
The community engagement period ran from 6 to 19 October 2021 and consisted of an online survey on Participate Melbourne.
Who we heard from
The profile of community members who provided feedback was:
Connection of respondents to City of Melbourne and age of respondents
What we heard
Overall feedback that we received is that the financial plan is positive due to overall optimism and logical connection to frameworks and legislation. There was some sentiment that the plan could further account for broader challenges such as environmental and social issues.
A consideration is expected to be given to greater allocation of funds to benefit businesses and people in the municipality, ensuring that debt drives improvement to livelihood of the community targeting short, medium and long term needs. Community harmony, inclusion initiatives, and diversity could further be reflected in the financial plan.
Further suggestions were that Council consider assessing sale of assets and contribution by developers to ensure benefits to the community and working on lowering bad debts.