Putting Council on a business footing

As is happening around the nation, many Councils in Western Australia are moving down the path of a greater emphasis on competition. At Bunbury, located 180 kilometres South of Perth and with a population of 28,000, Council has established 14 Business Units to achieve this end.

The restructure aims to increase the customer focus on the delivery of Council services, as well as provide high quality at the best price. Richard Green, Director Business Units, said that to date the move to Business Units has realised $1.5 million in savings and improved quality outcomes. The Units have also been successful in winning a number of external bids.

Achieving an increased customer focus has been gained through conducting customer surveys, appointing a Community Relations Officer, establishing a one stop shop Service Centre and setting up a customer requests tracking system.

Quality improvements have flowed from benchmarking and establishing clear performance indicators, defining specific work area outcomes through service agreements, documenting work practices and seeking ISO 9000 accreditation. Cost efficiencies have been driven by enterprise bargaining, external consulting and sending staff to review leading edge organisations both in Australia and overseas.

Richard Green believes that it is vital Councils look at quality issues before turning their attention to price. He points out that it was sometimes difficult to find partners for many benchmarking exercises. At Bunbury, it was often the case that Council was performing better than benchmarking partners, or could not find another relevant organisation.

"It is essential to agree on targets and the kinds of changes needed to achieve those targets," Richard said. "It is likewise important to provide resources to facilitate change and promote the opportunities that will result from the reform process."

For further information contact Richard Green, telephone (08) 9780 8243.