By TONY FOSTER
BRIGHTON Council continues to serve our local community, providing the full range of services, efficiently and effectively.
We continue to enjoy the lowest and fairest rates in Tasmania. Our Council is consistently judged as the most efficient in the State and among the most innovative local government bodies in Australia. We are indeed fortunate that both the elected Councillors, and our Council management and staff, share a common aim and that is to provide the best local government service and support for our community. We work together to achieve this objective, with the Councillors providing the leadership and strategic direction and our management and staff responsible for implementing our plans and providing services to the community.While we believe that we do this better than most, to be fair, the vast majority of, if not all, councils around Tasmania are pursuing similar objectives.
In contrast, it seems that some in politics and sections of the media are keen to paint local government as not functioning well and not meeting the needs of the community. They highlight any negatives, but don’t seem very interested in the positive achievements of councils.
Unfortunately, the push for council amalgamations, the debate over the funding needed to upgrade water and sewerage infrastructure in some parts of the State, and personality conflicts at a very small number of Councils have led media coverage of local government issues in more recent times.
As a consequence, the dismissal of a council and infighting at one or two others dominate the headlines. From all this, you could be excused for thinking that local government is in trouble throughout the State. In reality the problem is more a consequence of the inexperience of small minority of elected Aldermen or Councillors and deficiencies in the governing Local Government Act.
So while we hear plenty from the critics, little is said about the success of resource sharing as an alternative to amalgamation, or the failure of the State and Commonwealth Governments to provide any funding to upgrade historically old water and sewerage services, or the vast majority of councils that continue to work well, balance their budgets and effectively serve their ratepayers and communities.
The reality is that local government has a good story to tell and despite the commentary, much of it ill-informed, it is arguably our most efficient and responsive tier of government. Certainly councils are closer to their communities, provide services that directly support the public and have a better understanding of community needs.
At Brighton, we take pride in the fact that while we may not always agree on every issue, we are able to work to achieve outcomes to ensure our municipality can progress and provide the support and opportunities that our community requires.
I am confident that every Councillor and all employees of Brighton Council are genuinely working as hard as possible and continually developing initiatives to benefit our community.
But we are not resting on our laurels. We are determined to continue to strive to be even more efficient in everything we do and to improve services and facilities for our community.
The Tasmanian Common Services Joint Venture, established at Brighton’s instigation, is just one example of local government introducing initiatives to benefit ratepayers. This sees councils sharing common services, such as planning, asset management and financial services as part of a joint venture arrangement. It has already resulted in significant efficiencies and this financial year alone will collectively save the participating councils’ ratepayers, including Brighton’s, well in excess of $1 million.
Of course the benefits go far beyond simply saving money. By sharing expertise, technology, equipment and facilities, the councils are providing improved services for their communities, attracting and retaining skilled employees and bringing a new level of efficiency to local government.
Unfortunately, these sorts of positive initiatives don’t receive the same level of publicity as a petty squabble between aldermen or councillors at one or two councils. That promotion doesn’t suit the agenda of the media sensationalists or those promoting local government problems for their own political purposes.
But Brighton Council will not be distracted. We will continue to work hard for our ratepayers. We will continue to listen to our community and provide the services and facilities that are needed. We will continue to attract development, both residential and commercial and provide opportunities for our people. And we will continue to strive to be the best and most efficient Council that we can be.