Rural Vic councils to receive $20 million grant

By Shannon Jenkins

July 2, 2019

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Councils in Gippsland, Wimmera Southern Mallee, the South West and the Central Highlands will share $20 million worth of grants under the Rural Councils Transformation Program (RCTP).

The program aims to improve financial sustainability for projects and services in rural councils in Victoria, which cover more than 95% of the state’s land mass.

Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek says the grants will result in millions of dollars worth of productivity benefits and reduced costs over the next five years.

“Victoria’s 48 rural and regional councils are the lifeblood for more than 1.5 million residents, and we want them to remain stable and sustainable heading forward,” Somyurek said.

Corangamite, Moyne and Warrnambool will share $4.5 million, to go towards centralising and standardising information systems delivering finance, human resources, business, IT, planning and waste services. 

Buloke, Hindmarsh, Horsham, Loddon, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack will receive $5 million. This funding will be used to deliver a full suite of regionally-shared finance and payroll services.

Ballarat, Ararat, Central Goldfields, Golden Plains, Hepburn and Pyrenees will deliver a regionally-shared IT platform to support finance, payroll, records, safety, fleet management, building, environmental health, planning, waste and community services, with their share of $4.5 million.

Bass Coast, East Gippsland, South Gippsland and Wellington will also receive $4.5 million to fully integrate information systems, with a focus on electronic records and document management.

READ MORE: Audit reminds Vic councils of their duties

The grant comes after a tumultuous time for the state’s councils.

The South Gippsland Shire Council was recently dismissed and replaced by an interim administrator, who will run the council until October 2021.

The decision was made after six councillors resigned, one was sacked and a commission of inquiry found “high levels of tension” within the council.

The RCTP was established from the 2017-18 State Budget’s Rural and Regional Councils Sustainability Reform Program.

The program aimed “to identify challenges and barriers experienced by rural and regional councils and develop policy reforms to provide long-term financial and operational sustainability for the sector”.

It found that rural councils face more financial pressure, relatively higher infrastructure and service delivery costs, and reduced breadth and scope of service delivery compared to that of metropolitan councils, according to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

The RCTP grants hope to alleviate these pressures.

“We’re supporting councils to work together. This project will bring efficiencies to shared services and the opportunity to redirect savings to increase a range of on-the-ground services within the councils themselves,” Member for Bass Jordan Crugnale said.

Earlier this year the Victorian Auditor General looked at whether grant programs supplied by Regional Development Victoria actually benefits its communities.

The audit found it was unclear “whether any benefits have been sustained beyond the immediate injection of funds into a community”.

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