LG Professionals inaugural conference

"People in Local Government in Victoria have participated in reform, the likes of which have not occurred anywhere else in the world," said Lyndon Webb, President Local Government Professionals Inc.

He was speaking at the opening of the first Annual Conference staged by the newly formed LG Pro, an organisation merging the Victorian Divisions of the Institute of Municipal Management and Institute of Municipal Engineering Australia and the Victorian Municipal Community Services Association.

"This is not a technical conference but one for professionals focussing on customer service," he said. "Ensuring it will appeal to our vast membership has not been taken lightly by the organising committee."

Also speaking at the opening, Rob Maclellan, Victorian Minister for Planning and Local Government, commented on the appropriateness of the Conference theme, 'Reform Beyond Reform'. He said that we are never free of change, always making adjustments in a dynamic world and in the dynamic world of Local Government.

"Your organisations have had the energy, courage and skills to come together in one organisation," the Minister said. "You should use this Conference to examine the future and not look back on the past. We should be looking to where we want to be in the years ahead."

In the session titled, 'Changing the Culture of Local Government In Practice' Janet Dore, Chief Executive Officer at the City of Ballarat, said that with the new focus on teams it is vital that Councils appoint managers with what she terms 'soft' skills. This covers areas such as communication and interpersonal skills.

"Empowerment through delegation and trust throughout the organisation, and focusing on results are also crucial," she said.

"It is easy to count surface gains, such as CCT quotas and rate reductions. The hard part is still ahead through the soft skills of reinforcing, reassuring and renewing staff to achieve long term benefits." Janet Dore also called on State Government to recognise Local Government's achievements, not just in dollar terms, but in better services and quicker response times.

"The ultimate irony is the State Government saying we have not done enough and that the pace of change is too slow," she said. "Keeping the umbilical cord so firmly linked, the State Government is not allowing Councils the power to deliver in their local area. If we are not responsible managers, the community will soon let us know."