Future directions in corporate management

An interview with Jamie Parry, Manager Corporate Services, Perth City Council

Much of Jamie Parry’s Local Government experience has been gained at the City of Perth, having been employed here on two occasions, once prior to its split into four local authorities in the 1990s, and later where he is now Manager Corporate Services. In between he worked as Executive Director of the Western Australian Division of the Local Government Managers Association (LGMA).

“I have been fortunate to be involved in a range of projects, including the review of draft Local Government Act provisions with the LGMA,” he said.

Jamie enjoys a range of challenges in his role.

“I have worked on the proposal to initiate an enforceable Code of Conduct at the City of Perth which is now a priority matter for WA Local Government,” he said. “I have also developed an Annual Performance ‘Healthcheck’ Program as well as strategies aimed at making the City more transparent and accountable to the community.”

Jamie Parry sees some specific challenges including refining the Annual Performance Healthcheck. “This program ensures the City is meeting its good governance and due diligence obligations,” he said. “This identifies clear standards of conduct upon which behaviour can be assessed and the quality of workplace decisions enhanced, as well as improved support within the organisation of corporate initiatives, such as electronic document management.”

According to Jamie, one key challenge has been the skills shortage which is starting to affect most Councils.

“While both metropolitan and rural Local Governments are being affected by the skills shortage, rural Western Australia has been hardest hit, particularly in the professions of planning, health and finance,” he said. “Addressing the specific difficulties of attracting and maintaining professionals is a major issue for rural Councils, with the short term solution being to look overseas.

“Local Government is a sector that is attracting many well qualified people from outside its traditional boundaries. To remain competitive, I think it is important that managers not be complacent and pursue further studies or development opportunities in new areas, particularly within the organisation where you can learn and contribute to an area that will be of benefit both personally and to the organisation.”

Other workforce planning initiatives in WA include the GradStart program providing graduates with a structured program of mentoring, skill enhancement and professional development, and a graduate recruitment placement program. Several Local Governments, including the City of Perth, continue to offer 12 month traineeships and possible future employment.

Jamie said while it is difficult to attract people to Local Government it can be equally difficult to retain them.

“The City of Perth’s profile means that it is able to attract quality staff in most professional areas, however, a lack of opportunity to progress within the organisation and more attractive salaries offered by State Government and private enterprise means that many younger professionals move on within a few years,” he said. “While this can be healthy for an organisation, the City is examining this as part of its workforce planning.”

As for future directions, Jamie would like to see Local Government make a move to more collaborative arrangements between the levels of government on roles and responsibilities.

“A review of financial and legislative structures needs to be undertaken to ensure Local Government is able to sufficiently fulfil these roles,” Jamie Parry said. “This might enable Local Governments to have more of a community leadership role than that of traditional service providers.”