This week is Local Government Week and its theme is “Discovery Diversity Demography”. Local Government Week is an event run by a bunch called Local Government NSW who, according to its website is the “peak organisation that represents the interests of NSW general purpose councils and associate members including special purpose councils, and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council”. They spend about $16m a year doing this some of which comes from our Council (though I could not find it in the last Annual Report though I am sure they would tell me if I asked). Our own Council participated in this today, 1 August 2017, with an event called Council Life that was held on Council’s front lawn.
I went along expecting to find the grounds of the Council Offices thronged with interested citizens. I was disappointed in this expectation but not, as it happens with what I found and with the conversations that I had. There were very few interested citizens that I could see. There were, it has to be said, hordes of school children but I would not classify these youngsters as citizens. Maybe this was because the event was held on a weekday between 1000 and 1500. Perhaps this time was selected because most people would be at work and about their daily business and that, as a result, those of voting age who would attend would be coffin-dodgers like myself who have nothing better to do with themselves. Perhaps the objective was to catch ‘em while they’re young and provide local schools with the opportunity for an excursion. I cannot say.
Several of the various departments of the Council’s administrations had stalls, that were exhibiting their wares and that were staffed by keen-eyed bureaucrats eager to inform an enthusiastic public. I have to say, and I am not a man that is easily impressed, that I found the people that I spoke to well-informed, enthusiatic about what they do and very pleasant. What is more important is that I learned stuff and, had you gone, you would also have learned stuff. It is a poor day indeed that ends without you being able to say; I learned something today.
I had an engaging conversation with the business development people. These are the folks whose job it is to ensure that there are jobs here for people to do. I had looked very briefly at their planning documents and I remain of the view that they are not adequately and aggressively focussed on business development that is not cyclical. I concede that the plan does look to “increase business outside the peak tourism season” but we need in the Shire a solid base of jobs that generate economic activity all the year round. The folks I spoke to recognised the technology infrastructure challenges; you cannot start a business today without an broadband connection. Our broadband service is, frankly, hopeless. As I write I am getting 4Kbps download and 0.77Kbps upload. Now, for
some of my readers this will mean nothing so I will translate. It’s appalling.
I spoke to the folks who wrote (or caused to be written) something called the Delivery Program and Operational Plan. Now, as these documents go, this is not a bad one. You might not agree with everything that’s in it but it’s well-written and you could flick through it of a night if you are having trouble falling asleep. Seriously, my problem with this is timeframe.
Above: Light reading for one and all
Nearly every business will tell you that strategy is easy; it is execution that is difficult. And more than that, execution needs to be quick; you need to do stuff before someone else does it. There’s a well-known sales manager’s adage that says that time kills deals. And it does. Of course the wheels of a government machine grind slowly but that should not be an excuse. The Delivery Program runs to 2021. I predict that in 2021 we will have a decent number of autonomous vehicles on the road, that we will not have a letter post operated by Australia Post and that electronic currency will be making a significant appearance.
I spoke to the communications people. In a way they have the toughest job. In my long and chequered career I have reviewed many projects and organisations. Invariably the biggest issue is communication; people will always tell you that no one ever tells them anything. I have said this; we all do. Yet there are usually people trying to get messages out and still struggling. There’s nothing wrong with that and you can be as critical as you wish about the Council’s communications people but they are getting stuff out; it’s just sometimes hard to find. I managed to have a chat with our Mayor, Liz Innes. Talking to her made me realise that local government is where government rubber hits the road. We do, of course, interact with the State and Federal levels of government but not in quite the same way. I have been guilty, perhaps, of taking little interest in what our local government does. We probably all need to take more of an interest. I shall and I may regale you with what I find (both good and not so good, perhaps) in these columns.
Inside the Council Chamber where Important Decisions may be made aided, no doubt, by those comfy looking chairs