MAYOR AND CEO OVERVIEW
Welcome to Council’s online Annual Report 2019–2020 in which we account for our performance, our achievements and setbacks. We also report on how we have addressed emerging challenges and provided stewardship over how public monies and resources have been utilised in the community’s interests.
Achievement against our Council and Community Plan
In 2019–20 Council achieved 33 out of the 60 commitments in the 2019–20 Action Plan of the Glen Eira Council and Community Plan 2017–2021 and a further 15 commitments are well underway. Twelve commitments have been deferred due to the restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 and our response
An unexpected start to 2020 due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, meant we had to make some significant changes to our services, internal planning and budgets. View Council’s response to COVID-19 here.
We consulted with the community on 53 projects. This included engagement on our 2019–20 Annual Budget major initiatives: Glen Eira 2040 Community Vision, Local Law review 2019 and a safe cycling corridor pilot project.
Community consultation is a vital part of our planning and decision-making processes. It helps us to understand community priorities and issues and ensures community involvement. We are committed to engaging with our community through best practice consultation methods to achieve the best outcomes.
Expanding the range of services that we offer online has continued to be a focus in 2019–20. We looked at ways we could make our forms easier to use, beginning with hard rubbish, and plan to continue improving our most used forms and our more complex applications. We installed a live chat function on our website offering immediate support for community members undertaking online transactions. Some of the key benefits realised from this work include: faster results for the community through a reduction in processing times; making it easier for people to transact online at a time that suits them; and creating more opportunity for service support from home. We received more than 35,000 online requests in the last year, an increase of 42 per cent on last year. We will continue to engage and work with our customers to ensure our service delivery is timely, convenient and meets future expectations.
2019–20 has seen us continue our comprehensive strategic planning program to shape the future of Glen Eira’s activity centres. We engaged with the Victorian State Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to progress the endorsed structure plans for Bentleigh and Carnegie to Planning Scheme Amendment stage, as well as obtaining permission from the Minister to exhibit proposed Planning Scheme Amendment C184, which will translate the structure plans for Bentleigh and Carnegie into the Glen Eira Planning Scheme. We made substantial progress on the structure plan for East Village in Bentleigh East, with a decision on the planning scheme amendment to be made in 2020–21. Two stages of community engagement on future aspirations for Glen Huntly have been undertaken, leading to the development of a draft Structure Plan for the central Glen Huntly area, which seeks to make the most of opportunities arising from the planned removal of level crossings at Glenhuntly and Neerim Roads. We have continued to work with the Victorian Planning Authority on the Caulfield Station Precinct Structure Plan, with further steps planned for this project in 2020–21. We have commenced scoping for Urban Design Frameworks for three pilot Neighbourhood Activity Centres: Caulfield Park, Caulfield South and Bentleigh East, with drafts of this work expected later in 2020.
On Tuesday 13 August 2019, Council received and heard public submissions on the proposed Local Laws 2019 as per the requirements of sections 119 and 223 of Victoria’s Local Government Act 1989. The new Glen Eira City Council Community Local Law 2019 and the Glen Eira Council Meeting Procedure 2019 were adopted on Wednesday 6 November. Local Laws help us maintain a safe, enjoyable, peaceful and healthy environment for the community and provide for the administration of Council’s powers and functions. At a Special Council Meeting on Wednesday 3 November, Rosstown Ward Councillor Margaret Esakoff was elected Mayor of Glen Eira for the 2019–20 Council year. Camden Ward Councillor Dan Sztrajt, who is serving his first term on Council, was elected Deputy Mayor.
An important part of our role is advocating in the interests of our community. In-line with our Glen Eira Advocacy Strategy 2018−2020, we successfully secured $30.6 million in government funding across the last year. This included a $10 million low interest loan from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Community Infrastructure Loan Scheme for the upgrade of Bentleigh Library and Eat Street Bentleigh (each project received $5 million); $2.6 million for the construction of two new pocket parks — Bentleigh Plaza (which includes an additional $1.3 million towards our Eat Street Project) and Aileen Avenue, Caulfield South; an $80,000 grant from the Victorian State Department of Health and Human Services for the Community Shed project at Moorleigh Village in Bentleigh East; a commitment of $10.5 million towards the construction of two car parks — Bleazby Street, Bentleigh and Stanley Street, Elsternwick; and in response to COVID-19, $7.4 million for new employment opportunities thanks to the State Government’s $500 million Working for Victoria program. For more information see our Advocacy priorities.
At a Special Council Meeting on Tuesday 5 May, Council declared a climate emergency and committed to stronger climate action through the reduction of our carbon emissions and by developing a more ambitious Environmental Sustainability Strategy. New carbon emission reduction targets were set — zero net corporate emissions by 2025 and zero net community emissions by 2030.
In a bid to encourage businesses to reduce single-use plastic, from October 2019 to March 2020 we undertook a plastic-free trial in Elsternwick. As part of the trial, we supported 18 businesses to reduce and replace commonly used single-use plastic items with reusable or compostable alternatives. These items included water bottles, food ware (cutlery, cups, plates, bowls), straws, coffee cups/lids, takeaway containers and plastic bags. During the trial, the participating businesses eliminated more than 25,000 pieces of single-use plastic. Most businesses eliminated at least one type of plastic. Incredibly, four businesses have eliminated single-use plastic packaging entirely.
By incorporating food waste into our green waste collection, we have reduced the amount of food waste going to landfill this year by around 903 tonnes. This means 171 tonnes less CO2 equivalent is going into the atmosphere. Our carbon footprint decreased by 10 per cent to 8,400 tonnes CO2 equivalent compared to 9,287 tonnes in the previous financial year. This decrease was the result of upgrading 1,315 street lights to energy-efficient LEDs and the installation of new solar photovoltaic systems at 19 Council facilities. We planted 950 street trees (684 replacement and 266 additional) which was 1,050 under target due to COVID-19 restrictions.
For more information see Helping businesses to go plastic-free.
As part of our Community Grants Program, Council provided $650,544 to 147 local not-for-profit community groups and organisations to encourage community strengthening and inclusion. We also provided $127,300 through COVID-19 Community Action Grants to 26 community-based not-for-profit groups and organisations that service the Glen Eira community to provide much needed assistance in response to the pandemic.
We accommodated 885 clubs playing community sport and delivered more than 92,000 hours of in-home support to more than 3,000 elderly, frail or disabled residents. StoryTime and BabyTime sessions held at Glen Eira Libraries were attended by 36,486 children and parents. Glen Eira Leisure, which includes GESAC, Caulfield Recreation Centre and Carnegie Swim Centre, hosted more than 1.24 million visitors.
We invested $39.30 million in community infrastructure and community facilities and expended 85 per cent of the capital budget, despite the impact of COVID-19. Our three largest infrastructure projects were: a new Community Shed at Moorleigh Village in Bentleigh East; and ongoing works for the new Murrumbeena Park Pavilion and Community Hub and the Eat Street project in Bentleigh. The program comprised 73 per cent renewal projects and upgrades of existing assets, seven per cent expansion of existing assets and 20 per cent new projects. We removed 9,378 square metres of graffiti from private property and 6,936 square metres of graffiti from Council property.
Our business community was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. To support it through this difficult time, Council approved a $7.3 million COVID-19 Response and Recovery Package to support the Glen Eira community, which included direct funding for local businesses. As part of this package, we introduced a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Small Business Grant — and provided 118 local businesses with grants of up to $2,000. This grant scheme continues in 2020–21. We relaxed parking restrictions around activity centres and medical facilities; waived payment for footpath trading permits for businesses; and waived some registrations for 1,108 businesses that fall under the Food Act and Public Health and Wellbeing Act for 12 months. We also offered local business owners the opportunity to access free, professional and confidential counselling sessions. For more information see COVID-19 response and recovery overview.
Since launching our Business Concierge Service in March 2019, we have sped up the approvals process for more than 86 small businesses significantly reducing the time it takes to obtain a permit from 45 days to 30 days. The Service is designed as a one-stop-shop to help small businesses with the myriad of permits they need to obtain, such as planning, public health or outdoor trading. With the aim of encouraging growth and prosperity in our business community, we held nine business events, including five Women’s Peer Networking and one Skill Swap event. We also offered more than 125 places to local businesses for participation in the 2019 BusEd Program.
Our 2019–20 operating position was a $10.94 million surplus, which is $7.37 million lower than our 2019–20 budget. Factors that contributed to this include:
- Lower than anticipated user fees due to the COVID-19 pandemic ($5.87 million).
- Increased expenditure on waste collection of $993,000 due to increased contractor costs for recycling, higher costs of disposal and increase waste generated during the pandemic.
- Funding of COVID-19 Response and Recovery Small Business Grants $325,000.
Any surpluses from operating activities are invested in areas such as capital works, technology and other service improvements so we can continue to deliver high-quality, responsive and accessible services to the community at a reasonable cost. We continue to charge low municipal rates and have the second-lowest average rates and charges in metropolitan Melbourne. For more information see Financial sustainability.
As well as being a service provider, we are also one of the largest employers in Glen Eira. We continue to invest in development, leadership and wellbeing programs for our staff. One hundred and sixty-seven staff members were recognised for the work they contributed to the organisation above and beyond the normal expectations of their role. Staff turnover was 12 per cent and we have an overall engagement rate of 63 per cent, which is well above the Local Government benchmark of 29 per cent for the independently assessed benchmarking tool that we use.
The State of Emergency announced in March saw 60 of our permanent staff at risk of stand down and 440 casual staff without shifts. We did our best to support staff through this difficult time, including the introduction of new leave entitlements, redeploying as many staff as we could into other areas of Council’s activities and advocating to the State Government to participate in the Working for Victoria program. We are very proud of all of our staff who adapted to the rapidly changing environment, especially those essential workers who represented Council on the frontline to keep our community, especially our vulnerable residents, safe and healthy. For more information see COVID-19 response and recovery overview.
When the pandemic was declared we quickly established a small dedicated multi-disciplinary team to lead Council’s response and recovery efforts. Skilled staff from across Council were seconded to the Pandemic Response and Recovery team and it will remain in place until at least the end of 2020.
Council’s declaration of a climate emergency also necessitated a review of organisational structure to provide appropriate focus and influence to this new Council priority. A Climate and Sustainability department was established in the Planning, Place and Sustainability Directorate. A Manager will be appointed early in the new year.
On Monday 16 March 2020, the Victorian Government declared a State of Emergency in Victoria due to the serious risk to public health posed by COVID-19. The announcement of this pandemic meant we had to postpone non-essential services and events and close down some of our key facilities, including the Service Centre front counter at Glen Eira Town Hall, Glen Eira Leisure facilities, Glen Eira Libraries and the Youth Centre. To continue to provide our community with essential services, we had to quickly adopt new working processes to ensure the continued good health of our community. This included moving services online where possible, conducting telephone consultations/appointments and using FaceTime to hold onsite meetings. For more information see COVID-19 response and recovery overview.
At a Council Meeting on Tuesday 17 December, Council endorsed Inkerman Road as the preferred location for a Safe Cycling Corridor, linking Caulfield with the CBD. The decision to progress the Inkerman Road route to design stage followed an extensive process of technical assessment, community and stakeholder feedback and a lengthy and impassioned debate in the Council Chamber. Council explored four alternative route options for the corridor, including Dandenong Road, and options that combined Alma Road and Inkerman Road. The options were assessed against three criteria: safety for cyclists; impact on the neighbourhood; and feasibility of construction. The report presented by officers recommended Inkerman Road to be strongest of the options under consideration. Moving forward, we will be exploring various design options for the Inkerman Road corridor and will be consulting with the community before a final decision on the design is made in 2021.
In early 2019, Council approached the market calling for submissions from specialist aged care providers to buy and operate our aged care facilities — Rosstown in Carnegie, Spurway in Murrumbeena and Warrawee in Bentleigh East. We approved a shortlist of potential purchasers and submissions from the shortlisted providers were reviewed by an Evaluation Panel. Unfortunately, none of the submissions could meet the strict criteria we had in place to sell these facilities. Therefore, Council made the decision in November not to sell at this time.
In February 2020, it was reported that Glen Eira, Port Phillip and Stonnington Councils may have breached the requirements of the Infringements Act 2016, with regard to how parking fine appeals were being managed. Council accepted the recommendations of the Victorian Ombudsman and introduced a scheme to reconsider parking infringements that had been unsuccessfully reviewed between 1 July 2006 and 17 November 2016. Just over $35,000 in refunds was returned to 246 people under the scheme.
At the end of 2019 and into 2020, we engaged with the community on the Glen Eira 2040 Community Vision — a 20-year vision created by the community to help guide Council in planning for the future. As part of this process, a cross-section of community members was randomly selected to participate in a deliberative panel process to write the Vision. While community engagement was delayed somewhat due to the impacts of COVID-19, we hope that by the end of 2020 we will be able to share a draft Vision with the community for feedback. This will then be endorsed by Council and will inform the next Council Plan 2021–2025. See A Community Vision for a future Glen Eira.
We will continue our consultation with the community on the redevelopment of Carnegie Swim Centre and endorse a final concept design in early September 2020. The redevelopment of Carnegie Swim Centre is an important project that will boost the local economy and provide many jobs.
We look forward to working with the Glen Eira community in 2020–2021 on a range of major projects and engagements, including the above, and we will continue to provide quality services and initiatives that will support our community in the recovery from COVID-19.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER