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Melbourne’s 10-year plan a win for the people’s panel engagement model

The City of Melbourne people's panel that worked on a 10-year financial plan.

The City of Melbourne has officially adopted the majority of recommendations from a “people’s panel” on its just-released 10-year financial plan.

The people’s panel – 43 individuals representative of the council’s residents, businesses and students – was brought together by the newDemocracy Foundation, started by public policy advocate Luca Belgiorno-Nettis to provide better community input into government decision-making.

The panel’s recommendations, reported on by The Fifth Estate last year in our story People’s panel: citizens tell Melbourne where to go, were surprising because they prioritised sustainability initiatives like removing car parks to make way for bike lanes, and also called for rates to be increased by the consumer price index plus 2.5 per cent for the next 10 years.

Even more interesting is that the City of Melbourne has now integrated almost all recommendations into it’s 10-year financial plan, released on Wednesday. The only recommendation not to make the cut was the plan to increase rates, mainly due to the state government announcing its intention to introduce a council rate capping policy in the near future.

Councillor Stephen Mayne, chair of the finance and governance portfolio, said the panel had provided sophisticated recommendations, taking into consideration how a changing climate, technological advances, a growing economy and an evolving demographic would affect the city’s needs and opportunities.

“The panel came back to us with 11 key recommendations and I’m proud that our plan aligns with the majority of these from planning for more public open space to continuing to deliver a high standard of events and of course the redevelopment of the Queen Victoria Market,” he said.

The 10-year financial plan sees the council’s net worth grow from $3.8 billion to $5.8 billion, with underlying surpluses each year. The plan also sees the council’s largest program of capital works, worth $1.4 billion, part of which is the major redevelopment of the Queen Victoria Market.

The council’s 2015-16 budget was also approved on Wednesday, with $80 million to be spent on the Queen Victoria Market redevelopment; $4 million on streetscaping; $2.5 million on bike lanes; $1.6 million to accelerate the council’s street and park LED lighting program; $1.5 million for open space projects at University square and Lincoln square; $1 million for climate adaption urban landscapes; $1 million for continued implementation of the Docklands Community and Place Management Plan; and $800,000 for solar panels on facilities across the municipality.

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