116 – Are we really that ‘special and different?’ Another answer: ‘Yes, of course’.

Posted by Parkinson                                                                                       450 words

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It has been a while since I posted but I couldn’t resist this topic. I appreciate the views put forward by Lancing Farrell and they have merit. But, from my point of view it is obvious why councils are different and should remain different.

Councils need different capabilities to serve their communities. These capabilities have often been developed over time in response to drivers evident to community leaders. For example, provide excellent customer service in delivering basic services to an affluent and demanding community; be able to build new infrastructure quickly and well to meet the needs of a rapidly growing peri-urban council – with limited resources; make sure that ageing facilities are cared for to protect their cultural values in a heritage place.

The leadership of every community will be different. Different people elected for different reasons – reduce rates; improve services; protect the environment; facilitate development; etc. These leaders will have different accountabilities to their community in delivering on their commitments. What might seem like an obvious and sensible thing to do in one community will look quite different in another.

Councils have different levels of resourcing. This is obvious to anyone who has worked at more than one council. This doesn’t always work the way you think that it will. Often it is the more affluent and articulate communities that want to pay less but demand much more – even though they probably need less. In contrast, it is often less affluent and articulate communities that end up paying more and getting less – even though they need more. The point is, they are all different.

In some cases the municipality that you live in is a source of identify. People want to associate with a town or suburb. Council amalgamations are often opposed on the basis of this loss of identity. It is human nature to want to differentiate yourself. In country towns, the local football teams fight it out on the field every Saturday to beat their neighbours.   There is often a sense of belonging associated with the place that you live. People want it to be special and different.

Having said all of this, I don’t think that people want waste and inefficiency. They expect value for money when they pay their rates. Common sense should prevail about the things that can be in common without losing important differences. Maybe this is where Lancing Farrell makes a solid point – if systems and processes can be common and, by sharing them, economies of scale or other benefits can be obtained, then it should happen.

My main point is that differences are important and what is important about being different needs to be understood and respected.

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