Shared services alliance to benefit ratepayers

BRIGHTON Council is a key member of an alliance of Councils developing a shared services joint venture aimed at reducing costs and enhancing services to ratepayers and the community.

Mayor Tony Foster said Brighton was a leader in Tasmania in sharing common services with other Councils ranging from planning, administration, engineering, records storage, information technology and the development of its unique software.

Mayor Foster said Brighton earned valuable revenue through the provision of its services and expertise to other Councils and this enabled it to hold down rate increases, provide improved services for the community and retain highly skilled professional staff.

“Increasingly, other like-minded Councils have been providing or using common services, but these have operated on an ad hoc basis and we are yet to see the full benefits,” Cr Foster said.

“We are now looking to establish a Tasmanian Common Services Joint Venture to formalise the arrangements and put them on a solid business basis.

“Already, the Brighton, Tasman, Southern Midlands and Sorell Councils have announced their participation in the joint venture and other Councils will join in the next few weeks.”

Discussions on establishing a common or shared services joint venture have been taking place for several years, but were held up as a result of last year’s local government elections. With new Councils now elected including some with new leadership showing more interest in sharing services, work on developing the joint venture has progressed.

Cr Foster said savings for Councils was the key and these would be passed on to ratepayers through improved or additional services or by holding down rate increases.

“Councils only pay for the services they use and their ability to sustainably provide services for ratepayers will be enhanced. Any participating Council can be a provider as well as user of services and where Councils provide services, they will be paid an agreed fee.

“The overriding objective is to formalise and develop the Common Services Model to provide maximum cost efficiencies, high quality service and long-term sustainability for participating Councils.”

The joint venture will see functions undertaken by different Councils and administered by a Common Services Model. It will operate initially with no central administration or staff, but with limited organisational management, where functions are undertaken by different Councils and administered by individual Councils.

Cr Foster said representatives of participating Councils would meet to identify workload and assign tasks from within their Councils and participating Councils would agree rates, etc. and draw up agreements.

Shared services could cover most of the responsibilities of local government, from planning, engineering, asset management, animal control to building permits and the levying and sending out of rates’ notices.

“The joint venture will provide participating councils with the ability and resources to enable quality equitable service provision to their residents and visitors, as well as generate economic efficiencies and increased viability to Councils and their region.

“It will enable participants to meet legislative requirements, increase consistency of processes between municipalities and build strong professional relationships and expand networks that will ensure the continual development and success of the joint venture.

“Importantly, Councils do not lose their autonomy, but rather will have access to the all the skills and experience within all the Councils under agreed joint venture arrangements, enabling them to better use their autonomy.

“This represents the next phase of Brighton’s shared services vision that is already earning valuable income for our Council to benefit ratepayers. The initiative should generate even greater benefits in the future,” Cr Foster said.

A Joint Venture Agreement has been drafted with the core group of participating Councils expected to formally sign and commit to the agreement this month. A business plan, management structure, marketing and strategic communication strategies are also being developed.