242 – A Grand Strategy.

850 words (10 minutes reading time) by Colin Weatherby and ChatGPT

A passage from The Book of Local Government:

“And lo, the Local Government was filled with aspirations for the community. But when the State government imposed a rate cap, limiting their capabilities, the leaders knew they must align their aspirations with their limitations through strategy. And Richard Rumelt, a wise strategist, spoke unto them saying “A good strategy addresses the most important and high stakes challenges through a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments, and actions.” But many Local Governments strayed from this path, with strategies that lacked a clear central idea and failed to address important problems or opportunities. And Rumelt warned them “If thou fail to identify and analyze the obstacles, thou doth not have a strategy, but instead a stretch goal, a budget or a list of things thou wish would happen.” And the leaders heeded his words, and developed a good strategy to overcome their challenges.”

Source: ChatGPT

I have been inspired for the title of this post by John Lewis Gaddis, who says strategy is necessary for ‘the alignment of potentially unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities’.  It is strategy that aligns our most important aspirations with our capabilities so that we can achieve them. It is especially important when capabilities are being limited.

Local government is full of aspirations. We deliberately ask the community what they want to create a list of things to do. We don’t wait for them to tell us. Our workers are expert at identifying new needs. We like to say that we really understand community needs and expectations. I suppose, this is where the problem starts when a State government disagrees and decides that people are being charged too much for councils to meet their needs and they introduce a rate cap.

Worse still, is when the State thinks some of those needs should not be met by the council at all or they are being met in ways that are inefficient or frivolous.

“The days of ratepayers footing the bill for Arnold Swarzeneggar impersonators are over.”

Labor leader, Daniel Andrews, 2014

I have recently re-read Richard Rumelt’s book ‘Good Strategy/Bad Strategy’. It is over 10 years old now and remains a classic on strategy. I also read his new book, ‘The Crux’. He has recently described his ideas about strategy as ‘challenge-based strategy’, which is useful when thinking about them in the context of local government. We have challenges.

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241 – Rate capping – the final words (from our future)

250 words (3 minutes reading time) by ChatGPT (with some help)

The Victorian government has implemented a policy requiring councils to operate and deliver services within the constraints of annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases. This means that councils must fundamentally re-think the way they deliver services to the community in order to meet this requirement.

If there are certain services that cannot be delivered within this framework, councils must identify these “special” services and seek a higher rate cap for them. The need for these services must be explained and justified through a community engagement process, as it is essential for the council to have the support of the community for this change.

These special services could vary, such as infrastructure projects that are partially funded by the government but the operating costs fall on the local community, or natural issues specific to a region such as tree canopy coverage or flooding.

To request higher rate caps, councils must demonstrate responsible and efficient use of resources in delivering their regular services within the CPI increase constraint. This will require a dedicated team within the council to understand and work with the Essential Services Commission, the regulator overseeing this policy.

Overall, while it may require a re-thinking of current processes and the development of new skills, there is a pathway for councils to live within the rate cap and meet the needs of their community.

Footnote

It is somehow fitting that the last post on this topic (at least for now) is written by AI using information taken from previous posts. It is illustrative of the efficiencies the rate cap must drive if councils are to deliver services with only CPI increases. Over 500 words in random paragraphs were reduced to 250 words of clarity in seconds. The essential actions were gleaned from many ideas. Councils need to do this.

Footnote to the Footnote

When asked to take the Footnote and re-write it, ChatGPT became quite chatty about itself …

The task at hand for councils is clear: to deliver services to the community within the constraints of annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases. This requires a fundamental re-thinking of the way services are currently delivered, and an emphasis on efficiency and productivity. The use of AI, like in the example of this post, serves as a reminder of the potential for technology to aid in streamlining processes and identifying key messages. It is now up to councils to take this concept and apply it to their own operations, in order to meet the demands of the community within the rate cap.