Minister to launch book that could help councils plan for future

Published 18 June 2012

The NSW Minister for Local Government, the Hon. Don Page, will be launching a new book that could help councils prepare for the future of local government in NSW in accordance with his Destination 2036 Action Plan.

The book, Councils in Cooperation, is a study of shared services in local government. It examines the international and Australian literature on shared services, evaluates shared service theory, and advances a new conceptual framework for explaining the comparative performance of shared service programs in practice. It also considers alternative models of shared service provision and investigates their relative merits.

“It’s coming out in time to help local government councils organise their shared services as best they can,” said Professor Brian Dollery, one of the book’s authors. Professor Dollery, the Director of the Centre for Local Government at the University of New England, pointed out that the Minister had just announced, as the first initiative in the Destination 2036 Action Plan, the appointment of an expert panel that will examine the structural arrangements of councils in the context of improving the financial sustainability of the NSW local government sector.

Councils in Cooperation explores both successful and unsuccessful attempts at shared services in Australia. It provides case studies of Regional Organisations of Councils and Strategic Alliances, as well as “vertical” and “horizontal” shared service arrangements, in areas as varied as Greater Western Sydney, the NSW Central Tablelands, the Riverina, and outback Queensland.

Looking close to home, Professor Dollery said that the failed New England Strategic Alliance of Councils (NESAC) was one example of an unsuccessful attempt at shared services examined in the book. He said that a major reason for the failure of NESAC has been that “the primary purpose of the alliance wasn’t so much to share services as it was to avoid amalgamation”. “Councils must go into a shared services arrangement with the determination to make it work,” he said. The successful examples examined in the book include the Wellington Blayney Cabonne Strategic Alliance (WBC Strategic Alliance – see logo above), established in 2003 and joined in 2005 by Central Tablelands Water.

Councils in Cooperation: Shared Services and Australian Local Government, by Brian Dollery, Bligh Grant and Michael Kortt, is published by The Federation Press. Bligh Grant is the Deputy Director of the UNE Centre for Local Government, and Dr Michael Kortt, who holds a PhD in economics from UNE, is a senior Lecturer at Southern Cross University (SCU).

Mr Page, a UNE graduate himself and the grandson of Sir Earle Page, Australia’s 11th Prime Minister (after whom UNE’s Earle Page College is named), will launch Councils in Cooperation at the Lismore campus of  SCU on Friday 29 June.