Building Council's capacity and performance
Council continues to work to improve its services, responding to changing community needs as well as delivering cost-effective and quality local services. Internal services, such as finance, human resources or information services, combine with each service area to drive continuous improvement – adapting existing services and looking for innovative ways to better meet Yarra’s needs.
Local government faces many challenges which increase the demand on existing resources – such as community expectations for better quality services, to address local issues and needs, and State and Commonwealth impetus to take on responsibilities for new areas as local government is often more effective in delivering services to local communities.
There has been declining State and Commonwealth funding to local government, with grants not keeping up with real-cost increases and economic growth. Additionally, in many areas there has been a continued issue of cost-shifting: where existing funding agreements fail to keep up with rising service costs, or responsibility is placed on Councils with no, or inadequate, resources to support this. As a consequence, local communities are spending more to maintain existing services or meet obligations.
Council needs to deliver more efficient, effective and responsive services to meet these changing expectations. Over the next four years there will be a focus on improving the processes, systems and staff capability to provide leading services.
Responsiveness is about making sure the organisation is positioned to understand community needs, identify how these can be met and ensure these initiatives are implemented.
In a competitive, global context the challenges and opportunities facing Yarra can change quickly. Recent years have seen significant changes in State and Commonwealth policy and programs, along with a relative decline in funding to local government.
Talk of a new era of greater cooperation between Australia’s three levels of government (cooperative federalism) may bring major changes to how each level of government funds and provides services.
Regional collaboration through projects such as the Inner Melbourne Action Plan (IMAP) reflect this greater emphasis on cooperation and seek opportunities for regional collaboration that will assist Yarra in achieving its objectives.
Council focus on customer responsiveness, driving organisational improvement, staff development, use of evidence and policy provides an opportunity for developing accessible policies which would ensure that access issues are considered in any future systems and procedures including procurement of goods and services, particularly in the area of electronic and information technology.
The demographics of Council employees should be as mixed as the Yarra community itself. That requires improvement of recruitment policies and practices to accommodate the needs of applicants and employees with disabilities This would benefit Council by strengthening overall performance and status as a leading municipality on human rights and social justice’.
Ultimately, our success in continuing to deliver quality services, facilities and infrastructure will be determined by our ability to understand local needs and adapt to meet these needs.
Central to responsiveness is ensuring that our services are of high standards, that service-users know what to expect and that Council meets those expectations and standards.
While some Council services are used by most residents – like waste management or libraries – many others are focused on particular groups such as children’s services. It is important that there is clear information, readily available, outlining the servicesCouncil provides and how to access these.
There is also a clear expectation that Council will engage the community in both shaping and designing its services, as well as seek regular feedback on how well those services are performing.
Organisational change and improvement are being driven by work on our organisational culture (the Organisational Culture Inventory), and are focused on a commitment to service improvements.
Council’s Executive has set a vision for:
“An organisation committed to change through an energised, cohesive team of professionals, recognised for our leadership, innovation and service.”
Achieving this vision, and improvements, will be ‘through developing our people, improving our systems and processes, and building positive relationships with the community and each other’.
The Executive has also set clear expectations for how staff will work (Yarra’s values):
Further challenges for Council include a skills shortage across many professions in local government, high levels of staff turnover, changing types of work and increasing community expectations. These all challenge our ongoing ability to deliver services.
Meeting Council’s need for skilled staff links strongly to the objective of ‘maintaining the City’s creativity and diversity’. Council needs to attract skilled, ‘knowledge workers’, as innovation is central to being responsive to a changing environment.
Retaining staff and building their skills and experience are also pivotal to delivering quality services to the community.
Evidence and policy base
Council also has an external role that includes identifying gaps between local service provision and need (e.g. social services) and working with other governments and agencies to address these gaps.
Central to modern government is a strong engagement in policy debates and developments across the three levels of government. A solid evidence base is key to well informed and planned services.
Council has a responsibility, and opportunity, to inform other tiers of government, local business, service providers, community organisations and residents, assisting them with data and knowledge about the local community and its needs.
A key issue for modern government is the multiple roles Council has, beyond simple service delivery. Council works as a partner, advocate, coordinator, leader and provider of community infrastructure.
Trends in public administration are for greater integration internally and externally, particularly with other public services (joined-up government). Council cannot abdicate responsibility for this, but there is still a role for Council as advocate or representative for community needs and views.
Council will employ the following Strategies, will measure progress through these Strategic Indicators and proposes some Initiatives to achieve the Strategic Objective of Building Council’s Capacity and Performance.
Council’s work to achieve this Strategic Objective will include the following strategies:
- Encourage broad community engagement in Council’s planning and decision making
- Ensure efficient and effective services
- Ensure a financially sustainable Council, through a balanced budget and maintaining Yarra’s infrastructure
- Develop responsive services
- Develop our people and improve our systems and processes
- Focus the organisational workload to deliver on agreed Council priorities
- Encourage and support a workforce that reflects our community’s diversity
- Ensure that our systems and processes are accessible and inclusive.
Council’s progress towards this Strategic Objective will in part be measured and reported through these Indicators:
- 80% of Capital Works completed within the year
- Council’s overall performance rating ≥ 65 (measured in the Department of Planning and Community Development survey)
- Successful achievement of customer guarantee targets
- Debt Servicing Cost Ratio ≤ 2% (the ratio of debt repayments to Council’s total revenue)
Activities and projects Council proposes to work on over the next four years, subject to approval through the annual Budget process, include:
1. Roll out the Customer Response Management system
2. Develop customer service guarantees across the organisation
3. Improve the integration, capacity and performance of IT systems
4. Complete the staff accommodation review
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