Future directions - Darrin Cunningham, Economic and Community Development Manager, Kentish Council

Article image - Future directions - Darrin Cunningham, Economic and Community Development Manager, Kentish Council

Latrobe and Kentish Councils in North West Tasmania have embarked on an ambitious program to increase their efficiency and financial position by sharing systems, assets and staff.

The program follows six years of successful collaboration between the two rural councils, where limited resource sharing has included a shared General Manager role.  The Councils’ willingness to share has also enabled the recruitment of other full time technical staff, which had previously proved difficult to fill on a part time basis.

This commitment to embedding shared resources in Council work practices was further strengthened by an Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government report published in November 2016.

The report revealed conservative savings of $768,000 across the Councils in the 2015/16 financial year. Savings achieved are being channelled to more and better services for ratepayers, consolidated revenue or other initiatives.

Both councils are now working together to implement the report’s recommendations including improving IT and business system integration, refining work practices and asset utilisation for the outdoor workforces, and mitigating the risks of being unable to meet the future needs of their communities.

A steering group has been established with members from both Councils and across all departments and a two-year implementation plan has been devised to manage the change.

The program is being assisted by LKS Quaero consultants who have experience in similar projects and help provide an independent perspective when facilitating discussion between the two councils.
Improvements are initially focused on the outdoor and engineering work practices where better utilisation of plant and equipment is anticipated, and consideration is being given to creating centres of excellence specialising in Infrastructure Maintenance and Construction, Town Services, and Parks and Reserves.

Another foundation work stream is the establishment of integrated common systems for communications, procurement, record management and work orders.  Each councils’ financial reporting, rating and employing functions will remain separate, as will the responsibilities and business of elected representatives.

The Tasmanian Government is encouraging all councils to consider either voluntary amalgamation or strategic resource sharing arrangements to better serve their communities in a financially responsible manner.

The financial success, service improvements and personnel skills gained from the Latrobe and Kentish Councils’ resource sharing has fuelled their desire to remain at the forefront of local government best practices in Tasmania.