Influencing at a local government level



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Local government is often spoken about as the closest level to the people, which is absolutely true, Townsville City Council CEO, Adele Young has told a CEDA audience.

“I chose to join local government 18 months ago because I’d had a crack at the other two and really wanted to see, in the capacity for influence, whether it was easier or harder to do without the layers that exist in larger bureaucracies and larger administrations,” she said.

“And the answer in my view is very much yes, you are a lot more able to influence your community and deliver outcomes without a number of restrictions that state and federal government have.

“And I think a lot of that has to do with the proximity to your customer, stakeholder or resident.”

Ms Young said western democracies are suffering from disengaged community dislocation between the haves and the have nots.

“Townsville has the benefit of having one local government jurisdiction and it is a community with strong fundamentals but those with are gaining faster than those without,” she said. 

“And those sections of the community without jobs or without the same economic opportunities as others, are ending up as a community that expects others to bail them out of almost every problem.”

Ms Young said it is no longer about delivering governments to people but delivering it with them. 

“I frankly don’t think our constituents give a hoot about which level delivers it to them, for them or with them, but it is taking the shift from the expert-lead regulatory function and putting the power into the hands of our citizens,” she said.

Ipswich City Council Acting CEO, Gary Kellar said the diversity of needs within a local government area can be challenging. 

“I think one of the problems we face particularly in large local governments, is that there’s not a single community,” he said. 

“You have various parts of that local government area, or region, that have very different views about what the priorities are and what their needs are. 

“And while you’re having a long conversation with one group and following that path you may alienate a whole bunch of other people.”

Mr Kellar said the conversations now need to be very local and governments have to find new ways of having them. 

“Brisbane’s very good at it in terms of using the electronic media and I get plenty of brochures in my letterbox about what Brisbane is doing,” he said. 

“The ability for people to actually engage and contribute however is a different kettle of fish. 

“There are plenty of people willing to put up their hand but what about the people that you actually need to get out and ask.”

Redland City Council CEO, Andrew Chesterman highlighted the importance of open discourse between the different communities and government.

“Every community you have to have a dialogue with,” he said.

“We’re having a dialogue with one part of our community about the sort of service that we deliver. 

“It’s a citizen jury approach, which is not unlike what is constantly happening in Noosa, and that’s a learning experience not only for myself as CEO and the organisation but certainly our political leaders.

“So, I guess it is about having a local dialogue and at times using different tools, and some of those tools are new and we’ve all got to learn how to use them. 

“I think that’s a way to manage those different expectations.”
 
Logan City Council Acting CEO, Silvio Trinca said local government is much more than roads, rates and rubbish.

“If you look at our local government, every day we provide more than 300 services to the community,” he said.

“The community has different needs, all they want to see is their needs being met and services being provided.
 
“So, the issue is about how well the local government is providing those services and are they listening to the people in delivering those services. 

“I come from WA, where the councils were very close to their communities and they were able to engage with their communities at a much deeper level. 

“The challenge for us in larger local governments, is at the end of the day we have to provide services for the whole community. 

“The expectations of rural people and urban people are different, you’ll never get the mix completely right.
 
“But at least if you’re communicating into the community you will start to build that trust.”

Brisbane City Council CEO, Colin Jensen said integrity is key to managing local government.
 
“My personal mantra is to influence with integrity, so the role of a chief executive and that of the organisation in a policy construct, is not to set policy, we are not the law makers, elected officials on behalf of the people will make laws to govern us and set that direction,” he said. 

“We will lawfully interpret, develop, implement and manage that and we will do that with integrity and influence.”

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