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News, insights and perspectives

May 2020

Long Term Planning in our new world: Time to reassess what’s important?


By Priyani de Silva-Currie

What will the future of Long Term Plans and asset management planning look like for local authorities now that we have a new world in front of us? 

Will community needs remain the same – as essentially, we are all still the same residents, with the same needs and in the same town? Or will what we need and value change? Can we look back to the past ‘shocks’ to guide us in our new world? Has your own perspective of what’s important now changed?

Right now, Councils are in the process of pulling the building blocks together for their long term plans – however with Covid-19 now upon us, it could be argued that we are entering a different future to the one we had planned for and banked on. Budgets are uncertain, demand has changed and the future is unclear. So, what can Councils be thinking about when ‘wait and see’ may not be the best course of action?

This is a large topic and I will share my thinking across a series of posts. First up, is to understand what is essential. 

Understand what is essential

Just as businesses and individuals have done in these times, we quickly identify the essential things we should be spending our time and money on. For many of us at home it’s food and shelter - basic survival.

Council reactions are no different. In plentiful times, Councils had the ability to go above and beyond for their communities – and some have extended themselves beyond traditional safety nets with bold investment in a buoyant fiscal community. Now, in recessionary times, retraction of services and spending will occur in some Council’s to ensure the essentials are covered.

So, what are the essentials for Council?  Presently Councils are in a unique position of being able to stop, step back and plan, to enable them to quickly work out what the core and essential services are.

Questions should be asked such as:

  • What do customers value?

  • What level of service should be provided?

  • What will provide the best return on investment for customers?

  • What impact do Council activities have on the community?

Council’s should prioritise activity and decide what is essential. 

But how does a Council assess this and who should decide what is the most important?

It’s often said that the information is right there in front of you (and no special survey is required). Our communities tell us every day what they value, whether it be through customer services feedback, complaints, submissions or ‘that’ call to an elected member.

What ratepayers sometimes can’t tell Council’s is how to make improvements. To make improvements, Councils have the experience and skills of the stewards who manage their assets and activities. These people add insight, value and judgement - so ask them.

By analysing the information available and seeking more information if there are gaps or choices to make, Councils will be in a strong position to make informed decisions.

Essentially, this is about strong asset management planning.

To discuss this topic, or for other Long Term Planning support, contact Priyani de Silva-Currie. | 021 347 107

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