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Fit for the Future

Cessnock Council Improvement Proposal

Council has submitted an Improvement Proposal in order to demonstrate how it meets the State Government’s Fit for the Future criteria.  

The Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) will assess councils across NSW as either ‘fit’ or ‘not fit’.  

The threshold criterion is the assessment of scale and capacity. Cessnock City Council has the scale and capacity broadly consistent with the recommendations of the Independent Local Government Review Panel because the Panel did not recommend a need to merge or become a Rural Council.  

The other three criteria (i.e. sustainability; infrastructure and service management; and efficiency) comprise seven ratios and Council’s Improvement Proposal demonstrates that Council will meet all benchmarks by 2019-20.  

Council’s Improvement Proposal has been based on the adopted Financial Sustainability Initiative – an umbrella initiative for a series of projects that will contribute to securing Council’s fiscal future by focusing on reducing costs, increasing revenues and improving value-for-money. A fourth objective, improve governance, has been included in the Improvement Proposal because a robust governance framework is an essential part of an organisation having the capacity to be fit for the future.  

The projects in the Improvement Proposal include:  

  • Service review;
  • Productivity improvements & cost savings project;
  • Sponsorship and subsidies review;
  • Strategic property review;
  • Fees & charges review;
  • Assets, depreciation and capital commitments review;
  • Developer contributions review;
  • Business opportunities framework;
  • Investment strategy;
  • Plant and fleet management review;
  • Procurement review;
  • Project management framework improvement;
  • Rating structure review;
  • Records management review; and
  • Embed a continuous improvement culture.  

The Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal will be accepting public submissions on Council Fit for the Future proposals until 31 July 2015 and anticipates releasing its Fit for the Future decisions to the Minister in October 2015.

Background  

The Road to Change…  

Three years ago, local councils from throughout NSW gathered for a historic summit, Destination 2036, to plan how local government could meet the challenges of the future.  

Councils wanted to be strong and sustainable and to make a positive difference in their community, but there were various views as to how this could be achieved. The local government sector asked the State to appoint an independent expert panel to carry out a review. The Independent Local Government Review Panel consulted widely in developing its final recommendations.  

The Panel concluded that for councils to become strong and sustainable, both the NSW Government and the local government sector would have to play a part.  

The State is prepared to change the way it works with councils and to support them through meaningful reform.  

Local councils must be prepared to consider new ways of working and new structural arrangements.  

The Fit for the Future program brings these changes together to lay the foundations for a stronger system of local government and stronger communities.  

What is a Fit for the Future council?  

A Fit for the Future council is one that is:  

  • Sustainable
  • Efficient
  • Effectively manages infrastructure and delivers services for communities
  • Has the scale capacity to engage effectively across community, industry and government.  

These features will ensure that a council has the strategic capacity to govern effectively and partner with industry and State government to deliver key priorities.  

The NSW Government asked councils to…  

Review their current situation  

Each council was asked to look at its current situation and consider the future needs of its community and the recommendations of the Independent Panel.  

The NSW Government provided a self-assessment tool to help guide the discussion. The assessment helped councils to get a clear picture of how they are performing in financial management, service delivery and scale of operations. It also helped them to identify what they may need to do ensure they are Fit for the Future.  

Prepare a submission  

Councils prepared and submitted a proposal (by 30 June 2015) on how they intend to become Fit for the Future.  

The Panel’s recommendation was the starting point for how councils can achieve the scale and capacity they require to become Fit for the Future.  

For some councils joining forces with their neighbours may be the best option. For others, adopting a new Rural Council Model may give them the flexibility and support they need. Larger councils who are already performing well may develop strategies to strengthen their operations and improve efficiencies.

Cessnock City Council Fit For The Future Proposal

Visit the Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal website to view the Cessnock City Council Fit forthe Future proposal

Assessing submissions  

The submissions will be assessed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) which has been appointed as the Expert Panel by Government.  

The Panel will use assessment methodology developed in consultation with the sector and make recommendations to the Minister for Local Government by October 2015.  

Make the transition  

Once councils have the recommendations from the Minister they will have to implement the plan so that they can become Fit for the Future.  

Part of becoming Fit for the Future for regional areas, including Cessnock, will involve participating in a regional Joint Organisation.  

Joint Organisations  

Joint Organisations will provide a forum for local councils and the State to work together to delivery regional priorities, such as jobs, education, housing, roads and transport. They will help connect local priorities from local councils’ Community Strategic Plans with regional planning for growth, infrastructure and economic development and provide a means of delivering projects across council boundaries.  

The NSW Government is providing $5.3 million to get the new organisations up and running in regional NSW, with the final model being developed by local councils, in partnership with the State. Joint Organisations will be established across regional NSW by September 2016.  

What will Joint Organisations do?  

Regional Joint Organisations will have three core functions;  

  • Regional strategic planning
  • Working with State Government
  • Regional leadership and advocacy  

They may also decide to undertake optional functions such as:  

  • Regional service delivery
  • Sharing skills and best practice  

Piloting the program  

Five groups of NSW councils are currently working with the NSW Government to develop the Joint Organisation (or JO) model and build better working relationships between councils and State agencies.  

Hunter Councils, along with groups of councils from Illawarra, Central West, Namoi and Riverina regions have commenced piloting the Joint Organisation program.  

Each Pilot is trialling a slightly different model, to reflect the different working relationships and priorities of their region. The Pilots will be sharing their learning with other councils along the way and helping to develop the Joint Organisation model, which will be finalised in early 2016.

Want to know more?  

Find out more about Fit for the Future by visiting the NSW Government Fit for theFuture website.

Visit the Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal website for up to date information on the review of Local Council Fit for the Future proposals.  

Visit Hunter Councils website for information on their Joint Organisation pilot program.