Partnerships for better service

"Competitive tendering has freed Council from the role of sole provider of services," said Peter Akers, Chief Executive Officer at Bayside. "It has altered its function to that of enabler and facilitator in the delivery of timely, quality services.

"Council sets the priorities for service provision. So long as the right quality and costs are present there is no reason why Council should necessarily carry out all services itself."

Bayside, in its former guise as Brighton, Mordialloc, Moorabbin and Sandringham, has always thrived on strong community partnerships. New partnerships are now being formed with service providers. The advent of competitive tendering has provided the opportunity for strong partnerships with, among others, Manukau Works New Zealand, Masterfresh and Recall.

These companies provide services including local parks and gardens maintenance, meals on wheels and central records management. While the rapid introduction of CCT, together with restructuring in Victoria, sounded alarm bells to some, Peter Akers believes that, in retrospect, the tight time line was a good thing as it put systems in place quickly without creating resistance to change in new Councils.

He pointed out many of the fears people held were now proving largely illusory. For example, where people believed that their meals on wheels service provided additional monitoring and friendship functions for older people and it would be lost with the new contractor, those aspects of the service were quickly restored.

Likewise outdoor work teams, although managed by Manukau are largely staffed by former employees of Council, and cooperation with Bushland Friends Groups is thriving. Another area which people feared might be compromised under the change was the Community Nursery. It still operates, as it did before, with the input of many committed volunteers.

"The City thrives on input from large numbers of volunteer and support groups, including many 'friends' groups assisting with heritage buildings, parkland, bushland and the Community Nursery," Peter Akers said.

One of the challenges for the new City has been to bring previously independent groups together with a common focus on Bayside. The elected Council has worked hard to build a new framework to enhance the work of these groups. Other partnerships are being sought or developed, with the former Moorabbin CAB providing information services, and Southern Family Life which provides youth support services.

Simultaneous with the change in the manner of service delivery has come the need to generate seamless service delivery. Peter Akers is determined that anybody providing Council services, including those who work for contractors at the Corporate Centre, identify with Bayside.

They all wear Bayside badges and are fully regarded as part of the organisation. Field workers are similarly identified as Bayside Council service providers. At the Customer Service Centre, where staff receive up to 1200 telephone enquiries per day as well as personal enquiries, close to 80 percent of queries are resolved at this important, first point of contact. This includes queries concerning work carried out under contract.

"The challenge is for Council to assume responsibility even where the problem may be the contractor's," said Peter Akers. "The idea is that no service is delivered which is not the Council's ultimate responsibility."

For further information contact Peter Akers, telephone (03) 9599 4444.