The facts on Council expenditure
Tuesday 22 August 2017
Every year, Council delivers more than 185 services and programs that help people and communities, and make Yarra a great place to live, work and visit.
Recent media commentary has stated that our operational spending is excessive and that our Mayor and Councillors are awarded large pay increases.
This reporting is misleading and inaccurate, and we would like to set the record straight.
How are the Mayor and Councillors allowances set?
In accordance with the Local Government Act 1989, Councils pay an allowance to their Councillors in recognition of the many obligations associated with the office.
These payments help to ensure that the role of Councillor is not restricted to people already in receipt of significant independent incomes.
Following a public submission period, Council resolved in February 2017 to set the annual allowances as follows:
- Mayor – $83,790.50 (a 2.5% increase over the 2015/16 allowance)
- Other Councillors – $27,079.35 (a 2.5% increase over the 2015/16 allowance)
These amounts are in keeping with the limits set by the Minister for Local Government.
Why does Council maintain a car fleet?
Our ratio of cars to staff is about one car for every 10 staff members, which is comparable to similar organisations.
We do not provide a mayoral car.
Our fleet of cars and bikes better enable us to carry out over 185 important community services, including:
- Parking Management
- Traffic Management
- Construction Management
- Road inspections
- Parks & Open Space inspections
- Building maintenance
- Local Laws enforcement
- Family & Children Services.
The bike fleet assists us in our efforts to be more environmentally sustainable and we are exploring ways to further reduce our reliance on motor vehicles. In adopting our 2017/18 budget, we resolved to improve operating efficiency by (among other measures) reducing expenditure on our passenger car fleet.
Why does Council purchase bicycles for councillor and staff use?
Empowering councillors and staff to cycle rather than drive is a great way to lessen demand on the limited number of parking bays near Council offices.
Staff members often use bicycles to attend on-site meetings or to travel between town halls, and this reduces the need for Council-owned motor vehicles.
Does Yarra spend more on staff than other inner city councils?
It’s difficult to compare councils because each has its own approach to delivering services. Yarra has long supported delivering services “in house” by our own staff as opposed to outsourcing certain services as some councils do. For example, some councils outsource leisure services (such as City of Boroondara), and some do not offer leisure services at all (such as City of Port Phillip), whilst some outsource some parking services (such as City of Stonnington) or construction management.
Staffing levels are carefully monitored by Council to ensure they are no more than what is needed to deliver services. We have 26 senior officers (EFT), which is within a normal range and comparable to other municipalities.
What is Council doing to reduce its costs?
In adopting our 2017/18 budget, we resolved to improve operating efficiency by reviewing management staffing levels and corporate structures, exploring further opportunities for shared services and joint procurement, and reducing the use and cost of external consultants, as well as by reducing expenditure on our passenger car fleet, IT equipment and building assets. Since 2014 we have been progressively reviewing Council’s branches to ensure that we are focusing on the most important services and delivering the best value for money for both Council and our community.
Is Yarra Council planning to increase its spending on consultants?
We are not planning to increase our use of consultants. Our 2017/18 budget does not include new spending, rather it consolidates a range of consultation expenses into a single figure for the first time. This will allow greater efficiency and more rigorous oversight of spending. In adopting our 2017/18 budget, Council resolved to look for further opportunities to reduce the use and cost of external consultants.
What are the three town halls being used for and what is being done to alleviate costs?
Office space in the Collingwood and Richmond town halls is fully occupied by Council services. Office space at the Fitzroy Town Hall is also fully occupied, in this case by community organisations paying rent to Council. Private organisations, community groups and individuals regularly book the main halls and meetings rooms at all three town halls, facilitating community activity and generating income for Council. Suggestions that any of these town halls are mainly empty are inaccurate.
How does Council measure community satisfaction with its services?
Each year, Council commissions an independent community satisfaction survey.
The community gave top marks to the services provided by Yarra Council according to this independent survey of 1,050 Yarra households undertaken in early 2017.
Metropolis Research found the average satisfaction with the 29 services and facilities covered by the survey to be 7.9, which is categorised as ‘excellent’. Yarra’s overall performance was higher than the averages for Metropolitan Melbourne and Inner Melbourne.