How to Get the Best Out of Our Councils


Introduction - how to get the best out of our Councils

Introduction to a series of columns by Amanda Spalding for Orange City Life about how the community can help our councils to serve us better.

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What are Councils' Functions?

I love local government and have spent most of my life working in councils in NSW and the north of England and want to see our councils be the best they can be.

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Performance and Demographics

The Office of Local Government has brought out a new website ‘Your Council’ - https://yourcouncil.nsw.gov.au/ so we can look at some data about our own councils and compare them with others, particularly similar types of councils. This column also considers the demographics of local communities and the Councillors that represent them.

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Community Committees - Good or Bad?

Orange City Council has more than 20 Community Committees, which meet at a variety of intervals including quarterly, bi-monthly or when required. Are they a good idea, or a bad idea?

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Rescission Motions

Rescission motions are a normal part of Council decision making. It is recognised that it is pretty poor practice for rescission motions to be used on DAs unless there are firm, technical, legal, administrative or procedural grounds for council to rescind a DA approval. Otherwise, rescission of an approval tends to indicate a failure in the decision making process of the consideration of a DA on the part of elected councillors.

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What's coming up in Orange?

Among the business papers for the Orange City Council meeting on Thursday 7th November was the Quarterly Budget Review and Performance Indicators - Quarter 1 of 2019/20.

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What is Good Governance?

Good governance is an IDEAL. Good governance, in local government, occurs when a local council governs for an on behalf of its local community and the wider public as assessed according to certain KEY CRITERIA. Good governance is a special responsibility and duty of the “governing body” of the council, that is, the elected Councillors, who are elected to exercise good civic leadership on behalf of the whole community and otherwise in the public interest.

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Should the community do a performance review of Council?

In NSW it is the community that holds Councils accountable for their performance, so here's some ideas about how the community could do a performance review of its council.

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Council Annual Reports Part One

Council Annual Reports have recently been published. The Annual Reports include reports on performance in delivering the Councils’ strategic plans as well as the financial statements. The Local Government Act requires that a council must prepare a report for that year reporting as to its achievements in implementing its delivery program and the effectiveness of the principal activities undertaken in achieving the objectives at which those principal activities are directed.

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New CEO's Vision for Orange City

David Waddell who was appointed as Orange City Council's CEO in September 2019 sets out his vision for the City.

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Part 2 Blayney and Cabonne

Council Annual Reports contain a wealth of information and here I analyse those from Blayney Shire and Cabonne Councils

Integrated Planning and Reporting

Council is accountable to the community through reporting on the delivery of the community's aspirations and priorities in its Integrated Planning and Reporting framework.

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Australian Local Government

As there are 3 tiers in local government in Australia and a different voting system there are significant differences between English and Australian Councils. Many of the issues Australian councils face are as a result of their relationship with their State Government.

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Customer Service Expectations

What customer service are we entitiled to expect from our councils?

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Community Satisfaction Surveys

In my columns – How to get the Best Out of Our Councils – I have lamented the fact that it seems, from searching their websites, that our three local councils do not undertake Community or Customer Satisfaction Surveys, so I thought I would give some examples of the useful information that can be gained.

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Second Quarter Financial Review

This column looks at how Orange City Council's budget is tracking for 2019/2020 in the second quarter financial review

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How many councillors?

In NSW councils can have a maximum of 15 councillors and a minimum of 5. But how many should they have?

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Rebecca Ryan General Manager of Blayney Shire Council

I met with Blayney Shire’s General Manager, Rebecca Ryan, in her office in Blayney and we immediately started talking about leadership in times of uncertainty. ‘It is important to give people unbiased and correct information. We show leadership by staying calm in times of uncertainty’. Rebecca is a big believer in speaking with people, not just sending information out. ‘We talk with our staff a lot, and with the community as much as possible’.

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Who do we trust

Research into local government in NSW in 2017 showed that trust in local government is higher than in State government, with 70% of those questioned trusting local government and only 43% trusting State Government. Earlier research had shown that local government was also trusted more than Federal Government, with the NSW Government the least trusted tier of government in NSW.

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What will be in Orange's 2020-21 budget?

By the time you read this I understand that Orange City Council’s proposed budget for 2020 – 2021 will have been considered by the Council meeting on 21st April 2020 for approval to go on exhibition for community comment. It will be interesting to see what proposals Council has for economic stimulus. Last year Put Orange First made a submission suggesting (among other things) that Council employ a CBD Place Manager to facilitate engagement and speed up planning processes. The Place Manager would also work with local property owners over lease costs and customer service training because of concerns from local business people a year ago about the difficulties being faced, particularly by CBD retailers. The economic situation and outlook is now much worse.

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What is in Orange's Budget 2020-2021?

As we now know, Orange City Council deferred approval of its 2020/21 draft budget for community consultation from its meeting on 21st April to its next meeting on 5th May. The capital budget for 2019/20 was $73.2M, so there is a proposed increase of only 3% in 2019/20, so the claims the Council is making that ‘now is the time to spend….(to) inject significant stimulus into the economy’ is somewhat exaggerated.

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CityWatch - What is in Orange's Operational Plan for 2020-2021

The NSW Government gave councils an extra month to 31st July 2020 for the adoption of their Operational Plan and budget as a result of COVID-19. It is disappointing that Orange City Council decided to take 3 of those extra weeks to spend more time on the process internally, rather than give members of the community more time to consider the proposals. It is also disappointing that there were no changes to the draft Operational Plan despite the changes to the draft budget in those extra 3 weeks. It is extremely disappointing that the decision was to place the plans on public exhibition for a minimum of 28 days, with no proposals to actively engage the community and seek views.

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Orange City Life - City Watch

Some Councillors handle themselves better than others in Council meetings and is good for the community to understand what good performance would look like,

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