There has been considerable progress in building governance and management, but there are several material issues to address.
The Council attends to governance. It attends well to decision-making, actively manages the Chief Executive’s contract and is continuing to develop its approach to risk management. Having two independent members on the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee (one being the chair) is good practice, and the committee itself is active.
But the Council would benefit from improved governance self-appraisal and in bringing the risk register to the Council.
There has been a significant catch-up in the past three years on management of infrastructure. Councillors are now integrated into the capital expenditure decision processes at the earliest possible stage, through use of the Victorian Government’s Investment Logic Mapping template and workshops. However, both staff and external parties view the Council as reactive.
Investing money well
Better than competent
The Council makes good use of the targeted rating system and manages itself prudently.
The Council has a financial strategy that is in line with its current reactive policy of managing for growth. It is prudent in the level of debt it takes on, and it makes full use of targeting and development contributions. Infrastructure for new suburbs is now funded to 85 per cent of costs, although this excludes community facilities.
Hotels and other accommodation are heavily rated, so residents would seem to experience lower than expected rates while living in a growing area with significant calls on infrastructure development. Those that are negatively and positively affected by rates are clearly identified in an easy to access manner in both charging and rating decisions.
Understanding how the Council’s property portfolio is to be managed in the future is an on-going matter of review and consideration. Currently there are assets held for amenity value, whose value may be under-recognised. There are assets (properties) that could be released, but that may be undervalued, and there are assets (eg land gifted as reserves) that may be converted to some other use. It would be well worth understanding the possible value of property release more fully.
It would appear that the Council’s implicit strategy has been to manage its finances prudently, so as not to encumber future councils. The Council is also exploring opportunities for a visitor levy but this is dependent on central government agreement.
Delivering what’s important
The Council has done some very good work in managing its infrastructure, but is facing challenges in its property management and management of its three waters infrastructure.
The Council has given priority to the three waters (drinking water, stormwater and wastewater), and it is now able to identify both the location and state of its pipes.
Asset maintenance is managed proactively, and contracting arrangements have been refreshed. The Council faces incremental investment decision-making similar to that in most utility-network industries, but the rate of growth in this Council’s area makes planning difficult.
Listening and responding
The Council spends a lot of time communicating with the community through a range of channels.
The Council has identified and is using various channels for communicating with ratepayers.
There is a clear mechanism for engagement, though the channel used may not be appropriate for communicating with nonmember businesses and contract workers.