YOU asked for streamlined councils. You asked for the shires to trim back their huge workforces and employment costs. You asked for reduced rates.
Well, now they are going to deliver in spades with South Gippsland Shire Council CEO Tim Tamlin estimating that the four Gippsland councils involved in a new, shared-services initiative could save $10 million a year between them.
“I’m not saying each council will save $2.5 million a year each. It depends how they go about it but savings in that order across the three councils is possible,” Mr Tamlin said on ABC Gippsland Radio last week.
The shire administrations at Bass Coast, East Gippsland, South Gippsland and Wellington might be doing the heavy lifting, and some staff will inevitably lose their jobs as a result, but Cr Don Hill at South Gippsland is claiming at least some of the credit.
In a ‘Letter to the Editor’ this week, Cr Hill claims a report presented by himself and Cr Andrew McEwen, in open council at South Gippsland in March 2015 got the ball rolling.
The report, he said, “detailed ways the council could reduce expenses, raise revenue and productivity and reduce the rate burden on all ratepayers. One section was about a shared services approach where the council could combine an area of its function with other councils to produce economies of scale” (see letter).
In a media statement this week, South Gippsland Shire said four councils across Gippsland would be investing in “an innovative operating model that aims to maintain service levels while reducing duplication, improving efficiency and increasing savings”.
Mr Tamlin agreed some job losses were inevitable if savings were to be made but said this could be achieved by attrition while there was also scope for redeployment or applying for new positions.
Bass Coast, East Gippsland, South Gippsland and Wellington Shire Councils have all committed to explore the potential establishment of a ‘shared services’ entity that may eventually deliver their combined back-office/corporate services and IT functions into the future.
“It is expected that a three-year transition period would be required to set-up the shared services entity. Over the next 12 months the four councils will explore how the new entity could operate,” Mr Tamlin said.
“To date, the councils have worked collaboratively on a high-level business case and proposed model that identifies savings to their operations and ultimately, to the community. Another benefit once established, is that the shared services entity may attract future income-generating opportunities by offering its services to other organisations.”
The Municipal Association of Victoria and Local Government Victoria are supportive of councils pursuing genuine shared services, not just council collaboration, as the way forward for local government, said South Gippsland.
“The four Councils will seek to take advantage of funding available through the Victorian Government’s $20 million Rural and Regional Council Transformation Program, which aims to support projects that will help make Victoria’s regional and rural councils and the services they deliver more sustainable.”
It is likely that the new entity will employ fewer staff to deliver each shared service function than the four councils combined do now, but Mr Tamlin ruled out using an off-shore centre, guaranteeing such a facility would be established in Gippsland to keep employment here.
“The next 12 months will determine which services may be potentially included in a shared service and each council can decide the services they wish to identify by then. For the communities across the four shires it will be ‘business as usual’ when it comes to their day-to-day dealings with their council. The changes that may take place will be in the back-office functions rather than direct service delivery roles.”
Mr Tamlin said all shires would retain front-of-house functions.