The crunch point
How often do we hear the glib comment that communities are expecting more but are less prepared to pay? Local governments tend not to shut up shop so what does this actually mean? When push comes to shove, we see things like run down town centres, shabby public buildings, spreading weeds and pests, slow response times to public nuisances. Or we see every cent going into these basics and no new investment; no provision for future growth and development. Sometimes we see localities that have succombed to a slow, agonising death, like Iris Dement sings about in Our Town.
Four key insights on local government sustainability
There’s got to be a better way. Localise recently hosted a Lessons on Local Government Sustainability Roundtable for Western Australian local government sector agencies. We were fortunate to have Ben Taylor from RedQuadrant visiting from the United Kingdom.
Ben talked about four key insights from the UK:
- Sometimes demand comes from local government’s failure to deliver right the first time or failure to “prevent rather than cure”
- Customer-led service improvements can create higher value at lower cost. Involving the frontline is critical.
- Place-shaping is key to meeting community aspirations in a way that activates other resources (and reverses the vicious cycle of decline in some cases)
- Service transformation; how to do more with less
Keeping community aspirations alive
Local government at its best is not just a service provider of last resort – it is a facilitator of community engagement in creating the future, both as citizens and customers. When aspirations and affordability don’t match up, it’s time to look for new solutions.