Community: We need a Council that actively builds, promotes and connects our community at a grassroots level.
We need a Council that seeks to actively connect and engage our community through events and participation. Our Council already has a wealth of assets – we should be identifying those which could be multiuse (or are underutilised) and actively collaborating with the community to deliver low investment, high value community centric events and activities. We need to identify new ways to use the wealth of resources we already have and innovatively expand on how we can utilise them for the benefit of facilitated community connection, which will effectively build culture, encourage friendships, increase community participation and build town pride.
Furthermore, community connection and relationship building is proven to help ease issues like lack of affordable housing, help expand support networks in crisis scenarios and assist in reducing mental health issues such as loneliness and disconnection.
Community building and facilitated Connection – for business owners, community members and organisations is essential to the strength and prosperity of our community long term.
We need a Council that actively pursues, consults with, encourages and considers community feedback and values.
Wherever possible, Community Consultation should be encouraged and facilitated in a way that it is made as easily accessible as possible. Community Consultation should also be actively sought by the Council where relevant Cultural, Community or Environmental groups are concerned and respect to their opinions and involvement should be held. Developing new ways for Community Consultation to support decision making, rather than being simply a procedural formality is important for true consideration of Community opinion and values.
For the most part, the organisational structure of Local Government in Australia is ironically and inherently non-community-centric, even where it aspires to be so. The top down, expert led approach means decisions are made at the top and passed down to those who they aim to represent within their community. We need to flip the narrative on its’ head and be actively disruptive in our approach – embracing a grassroots, ground up way of thinking where decision-making is led by community consultation and filters up through the organisation.
Often, providing Community members with the ability to ‘Have your say’ is done through online consultation. We miss the point entirely if our primary way of communicating with our Community is to meet their response with silence on the other end of an online form. Community Consultation needs to be Conversational – hearing the stories, passion and nuances of varying opinion so that we, as Councillors and Council staff, can fully embrace, understand and consider them. This is where the magic happens.
We need a Council that focuses on effectively delivering Core Services (Civil infrastructure, water, waste management and sewerage) and that is proactive, and diligent in reducing costs and assets that are not providing an effective return on investment.
We need to be focused, intentional and deliberate on cutting back processes, staff and assets which don’t actively contribute to the ongoing revenue of the Council. While many say a Council should be run like a business, I think it should be considered more of a Social Enterprise – valuing more than simply revenue alone, while also considering it as an integral part of the continuation of the organisation. I believe we need to be fairly aggressive in cutbacks and identifying areas and assets where we can reduce costs that detract from our ability to offer core services such as Civil infrastructure.
It’s important to note that certain assets may report an Operational Loss (for example Quarries) while still delivering a cost benefit to the council – IE. some assets being Council owned (and not privatised) mean that the cost of goods heavily utilised by Council in providing Core Service Delivery is unlikely to exponentially increase, which would effectively cost the Council more long term. It’s a balancing act, for certain assets.
On the same note, utilising grant funding opportunities (while avoiding large matched funding grant opportunities) will provide supplementary funding for things outside of Core Service delivery.
Avoiding funding non-essential new assets that aren’t entirely or majority funded by the State or Federal government is important, while also addressing ways to build a more financially sustainable budget.
Certain issues like Cost Shifting (where progressively the state or federal government hand more asset management over to the Council) needs to be addressed and lobbied against by the Council so that the portfolio of assets and infrastructure we manage doesn’t continue to increase.
While generally new Councillors are asked to consider what their ‘legacy item’ will be when entering Council, I see a legacy built on long term financial sustainability as the most important one that this new Council could provide current and future generations.
Building a legacy of financial sustainability and effectively delivering Core Services is essential right now – there is no point in building new, multi million dollar assets if people are dying on our roads trying to get to them.