500 words (5 minutes reading time) by Tim Whistler
I have read Lancing and Colin’s posts with some interest. As a long-term, self-appointed local government pundit, I don’t think the rate cap can be an existential threat to local government, but it is going to turn councils into zombies. Like zombie companies, councils will become dependent on others for their survival. They will be alive but unable to think or act for themselves. Despite what people would like to think, ultimately, they will be simply the local branch of the state government delivering the services the state decides they must. This is at odds with what many councils currently think they are doing.
“Councils have autonomy to provide services that meet the needs of their local community, and will establish a range of discretionary processes, including local laws, to guide certain activities that can occur within their municipality.”
Municipal Association of Victoria, ‘Vic Councils’ website
1600 words (15 minutes reading time) by Colin Weatherby
Great post by Lancing Farrell. I like the link to the creative and enduring solutions people have devised in response to food scarcity. Human ingenuity can be a marvellous thing.
The impact of declining financial sustainability on asset management is disturbing. As anyone directly responsible for council assets knows, for many years the biggest challenge for local government in Victoria has been the cost of caring for assets. The Institute of Public Works Engineers (IPWEA) has been advocating for better asset management for years. I would argue that the principal council service is to own and care for assets on behalf of the ‘community. The rate cap has rapidly made this much more difficult, and as Lancing showed, the challenge is not spread evenly across councils.
What can councils do in response to funding scarcity? Will our commitment and creativity help us find new ways to provide the services the community needs and expects? Our own il comune povero.
1500 words (14 minutes reading time) By Lancing Farrell
I was reading an article about la cucina povera, the cuisine created in Italy over centuries based on the food prepared by poor and sometimes starving people. Throughout history, people have experienced food insecurity and famine and they have adapted, but none have done it as well as the Italians. In Italy, love, ingenuity and scarcity combined to give birth to a new and delicious cuisine that has become mainstream.
I wondered, can a similar thing happen to local government as it is starved of funds and impoverished by the Victorian government’s rate cap?
I was talking to a colleague who recently attended a well organised and highly informative national conference on asset management. It was a pity that only three people of the three hundred attending came from local government. The rest were from sugar refineries, steel mills, manufacturing, energy supply, defence, food production, mining, ports, railways, airlines, telephony and numerous other organisations from across Australia. Apparently there was a lot to be learned. So why was local government absent?
Part of the explanation lies in the competing asset management conference run annually by the sector in Victoria. It is well attended by staff from many councils as part of their professional development and to support a sector initiative. I suppose councils don’t see any value in sending staff to a conference that doesn’t focus specifically on local government assets or the way councils have chosen to manage their assets.
A conference theme was disruption. Often it is outsiders who create disruption because they see things differently. Sometimes it happens when insiders are frustrated by the status quo and they venture outside the organisation’s comfort zone. Unfortunately, many organisations and industries are incapable of disrupting themselves. Attending conferences run by your industry is much more comfortable.
It was interesting to hear from my colleague about how other industries view their assets and what they expect from them in the way they are managed. One key difference is that private sector has productive assets that are owned and managed to create shareholder value (i.e. make profits). The value created by those assets is captured by the organisation that owns them. It is different for most public sector assets. Continue reading →