The Commonwealth has funded a number of council-led benchmarking projects under the Local Government Development Program (LGDP). Initial experience is that the projects can catalyse major improvements in council work practices and have high benefit-cost ratios. The projects rely on mapping processes in detail and using suggestions made by workers who deliver services to improve processes.
The Commonwealth has agreed to fund Cessnock City Council, Singleton Shire Council and Wyong Shire Council to benchmark open space and recreation and roads maintenance, with the aim of saving $1.3 million per annum and training staff in benchmarking skills.
The Commonwealth is contributing $115,000 in LGDP funding in 1997 and 1998, matched by in-kind council contributions. The project is the first LGDP-funded benchmarking project in rural and regional areas of Australia.
It follows on from a successful benchmarking project in which five NSW councils - Wyong, Gosford, Liverpool, Sutherland and Newcastle - pooled their expertise to reform 20 processes in their mobile plant workshops, civil engineering design, civil infrastructure maintenance and building maintenance.
The project saved $2.36 million per annum in time and materials and delivered major improvements in the timeliness and quality of services.
More information on the NSW benchmarking project can be obtained by contacting the project manager at Wyong Shire Council, Andrew Vestering on (02) 4350 5238, or by fax on (02) 4351 2098.
Funding of $50,000 has also been provided for benchmarking to a group of seven Western Australian councils led by Katanning Shire.
The group, which includes Narrogin, Merredin, Northam, Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Plantagenet councils, is interested in benchmarking core areas of local government activity, but will focus initially on waste management, administration and governance costs, recreation and culture.
The group, representing medium-size rural councils, has already agreed to adopt common accounting practices to ensure that benchmarking results are compatible.
For more information on the Katanning project, please call Mike Archer on (08) 9821 4200.