Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) is at a critical juncture in its long term planning. Having sought and received approval for a special rate variation in 2015 to ensure ongoing financial sustainability, and with the upcoming election of a new Council scheduled for September 2021*, it is judicious for the organisation to take stock and consider whether it is meeting the needs and expectations of its community. In short, to ask the question is Council allocating its resources to the right things? This is also timely as immediately following the election, ESC will also be required to meet the next round of obligations of the Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework (IPR) under which all NSW councils operate. This specifically requires preparation of “a Delivery Program, detailing the principal activities it will undertake to achieve the objectives established in the Community Strategic Plan, within the resources available under the Resourcing Strategy”. Council is required to have the new Delivery Plan prepared and adopted by Council by 30 June 2017. It is an explicit requirement of the IPR Framework that Council must consider the priorities and expected levels of service expressed by the community when preparing its Delivery Program. With this in mind, there is a clear logic to build in a substantive role for the community and to ask them the question of whether Council is spending their money on the right things. This will help Council achieve a significantly higher level of community endorsement, ownership of and support for the Program it develops. Why do something different from the usual community engagement activities Council has used in the past? Simply put, because it will allow Council to prepare a Delivery Plan that large numbers of the Eurobodalla community can look at and agree with its commitments, expenditure and priorities because they can see it was based on the recommendations of “people like me”, overseen by “people like me” and ultimately supported and endorsed by “people like me”. In the absence of this enhanced process for consultation, there is every likelihood that any major directions the Delivery Plan outlines will face the standard degree of cynicism and skepticism which sees almost any Council plan interpreted as being flawed, self-serving or misguided. This is not a comment on the merits of a Council’s work or intent; simply a comment on importance of public trust and the inherent difficulties Council faces. Community engagement which simply ticks the requisite boxes serves no meaningful purpose in achieving actual and practical community support. Does this all sound somewhat familiar? Source: ESC - newDemocracy Foundation Process Design April 2016.pdf * originally 2015 FURTHER READING
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