Australian councils are now beginning to embrace the benefits of creating Strategic Service Partnerships which focus on long-term outputs rather than short-term inputs. As leaders, we are all too aware of the headwinds which are buffeting Local Government. The constant demand to do more with less needs to be balanced with creating pathways to ensure long term financial sustainability. Councils need to challenge traditional thinking and look to new models which will underpin the delivery of critical services to the community, to the standard your council sets and that your community expects.
Are we delivering the best?
Enhancing operational performance whilst achieving visible financial efficiencies is achievable. It takes hard work and a willingness to challenge the status quo. We need to step into the shoes of our customers, the rates payer who provides the revenue to fund your council’s service offerings. Furthermore, both a council’s elected members and its operational leadership team need to critically examine the simple question “Are we delivering the best service, effectively and efficiently to our customers, both internally and externally?” If the answer is anything but Yes – then councils must acknowledge there may be a better way. Looking at new innovative service delivery models is the first step.
So challenge yourself with some reflective questions. Do you suspect, there is broad scale inefficiency in your administrative areas? Is it easy for your customer to do business with you; to pay rates, register the dog and enquire about the development approval process for their new home? When they phone and ask to speak with an officer about a missed waste collection AND a permit request for a small planning matter, is this call answered and resolved in a single transaction? Are you comfortable that actual performance is consistent with the metrics that are reported by your business units? What percentage of issues or requests are resolved in the first instance?
As a public service provider, do you know the true cost of these transactions?
Too busy ‘doing the doing’
Those Councils that take the proactive approach to improve service and strive for efficiency often hit a brick wall. The realisation sets in that they are either too busy ‘doing the doing’ or lack the capacity, resources or expertise to critically examine their service delivery design. Although a quick-fix consultancy piece can be attractive it will typically end in a large strategy document with a commensurate price tag with zero budget identified to implement the great ideas.
Partnering in a Strategic Approach is critical to deliver long term outcomes.
A Strategic Services Partnership approach can ensure that a viable and sustainable contribution is made to meeting the challenges of modern public service provision. When selecting a partner, it is important to ensure they have the expertise, resources and commitment to be there for the long haul. Crucially, a good partner acknowledges that every community is unique. By working collaboratively, the strategic partnership becomes the ‘link’ that supports the council’s financial objectives and the community’s service expectations.
The next conference in this series, Local Government Financial Sustainability, takes place in Sydney this September. Book soon to secure your place!