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  • Writer's pictureMark Matijevic

The Vital Role of Purposeful Planning in Local Government

All businesses exist for a reason. Some exist for altruistic reasons, some for profit, some because that is what the people operating enjoy, and in the case of councils, they exist to provide the infrastructure and services that the people who live, work, and play in those areas need. They are democracies, so they are there to operate in the interests of the community they represent and are often held to account in elections if they don’t. 


Many businesses have documented plans, and this helps guide them into their future, but Local Governments must also provide long-term plans that represent the strategies of the regions. These plans must meet legislated guidelines, which are different based on the region they operate in, and it is sometimes difficult to present a plan that suits your organisation and articulates the issues and actions whilst also meeting these regulations.


These strategies then define the deliverables, including the inter-related asset plans, projects, capital expenditure, service levels, and operational activities required to execute them. They also articulate the revenue sources for council, including rate rises, and try to create long and short-term budgets to meet these objectives. 


An important part of this planning process is consultation, both internally and externally, and this should always happen well before the plans are created which are based on the financial and resourced capabilities of the council. 


Addressing Diverse Stakeholders and Bridging the Gap Between Plans and Budgets 

Councils in Australia and New Zealand have many demands as well as complex infrastructure requirements, many with significant backlogs. They are much more diverse than almost any other organisation. This makes it especially important to create plans to which all stakeholders contribute.


The processes and tools must make it easy for all stakeholders to utilise, and although coordinated centrally, they need to provide tools that are usable. It is also important that the projects, actions, plans, and strategies are tracked transparently in a way that doesn’t create significant overhead.  

There are many organisations that base their upcoming budgets based on the previous year's numbers, and the plan is often a guide for the budget, but they often operate at cross purposes. The plan can detail the aspirations, but the budget can detail the reality.


An example is that many capital projects are not completed based on the plans. This is because many don’t factor council resource constraints. That often leads to delays in actions and projects that plans commit to the public. 



for more information on planning, download our action guide for top tips!

For more information and tips on planning – download our guide: From Plan to Action: A Practical Guide to Implementing Your Strategic Plan.


The Crucial Role of Planning and Transparent Monitoring 

It’s for reasons stated above that makes the planning process such an important process. Firstly, it defines the strategies and goals of the council. It then defines actions, service levels, and projects that allow those objectives to be met, and then balances these based on the capability of the council from both a resourcing and financial perspective.


Collaboration and transparency in this process is crucial to ensure any overlaps or cross-departmental contribution has been thoughtfully considered.  It needs the stakeholders to commit to these plans based on their ability to execute and goes through a number of cycles to ensure it is achievable. Once agreed, it needs to be monitored.  

 

The Importance of Fit-for-Purpose Tools 

The tools used to develop, and subsequently monitor, plans and budgets must be fit for purpose and easy to use. If not, then all stakeholders may not take ownership and the outcomes will be hard to monitor. Further, the public will not be aware of progress if information is not made available to them. This information is a significant part of the government experience, and key to building trust with the community.


Planning and Reporting is such an important process (it gives roadmaps to success) that it needs dedicated tools that are fit for purpose, easy to use, and provide input into budgeting processes. Monitoring the information at appropriate intervals will only happen if the people have tools that enable this type of interaction for appropriate processes and automatic uploads of any data that is collected in other council systems. The planning solution therefore needs to be a core solution in Council’s enterprise toolset and a reference point for decisions made at all levels. 


The Future is Automated

There are many advancements happening in this area, especially automating these processes and improving input from the public and internal stakeholders, as well as providing interactive tools to view relevant information. Our partners at Envisio have all the relevant functionality, is easy to use, and they are well on the path to embedding AI to automate many tasks and gather the relevant information and data to help Council’s make informed decisions and share their performance outcomes. 

 

For more information and tips on planning – download our guide: From Plan to Action: A Practical Guide to Implementing Your Strategic Plan.

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