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Jun 5, 2011

It’s not easy working for a small Council …

We some time forget the wide range of services delivered by local government - this requires a tremendously diverse range of skills, particularly for those working in a small council.

Category: General
Posted by: Cambron
Working for a small council requires a broad and flexible skill set to overcome the challenge of providing the diverse and complex services that communities expect from local government.

Core services typically include law enforcement, traffic management, primary health, recreation, animal management, libraries, waste and environment management, youth and aged services, civil construction, road maintenance and land use planning. The list goes on and on.

Regardless if you work for a small or large council, the core services that ratepayers expect to be delivered are largely the same. Rural councils also face the additional challenge of picking up community service gaps not provided by other levels of government or the private sector.

Consider two Victorian councils with an adjoining boundary: the City of Greater Geelong with a workforce of around 2,300; and, the Borough of Queenscliffe with approximately 50 employees. Ratepayers of these municipalities expect that both will largely deliver the same services to the same standard. Of course, the Borough of Queenscliffe will contract out more services, but they will still need to have the in-house skills to manage those contracts.

Clearly working for a small council requires employees to have a broader range of responsibilities and the competencies to match.

Typically, employees at smaller municipalities are more adaptable and have a much better understanding of the overall council service deliverables and strategic direction. Supporting this will likely be a greater sense of team and community. Perhaps this greater understanding and commitment is the reason why most small councils continue to make a considerable contribution and consistently punch above their weight.

However, the growing challenge for smaller councils is not the actual service delivery, but managing the increasing compliance requirements. Many employees managing compliance may feel that it is a task that detracts from their ‘real work’. Regardless of the size of a council, each must comply with the same legislation, regulation, funding agreements and governance expectations. This adds extra pressure on the collective employee work effort as they gather and report on more and more information.

The only solution is to invest in the emerging smart and, in many cases, value-for-money technology.

Councils with large budgets and less incentive to be efficient may overlook some of these opportunities. As a simple example, I was recently at an organisation that had just invested a considerable amount in a new internal software communication tool. I could not help but contrast their investment against an innovative smaller company, which had used Skype, for a considerable time, to do the same thing - and much more - at a fraction of the cost.

Cambron, the company I work for, delivers a range of integrated management and governance software solutions with a pricing strategy that charges on a per user basis. Their smallest client has around twenty employees, whilst their largest has many hundreds. Cambron’s pricing strategy is aimed at increasing market share by providing a return on investment for smaller and large organisations. To do this profitably, the software has to be reliable and intuitive to use. Suppliers with this approach can provide opportunities for small organisations that otherwise would not exist.

The message here is that small councils can meet the growing compliance resource demand - not necessarily by following their larger cousins - but by continuing to think outside the box and do more with less.

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