Recently I presented on this topic to a joint SGS and University of Technology Centre for Local Government Roundtable on “service delivery in a changing context”.
My presentation was based on research I have prepared over the past two years analysing ROCs in NSW and Western Australia for the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government and NSROC and on options to enhance regional cooperation by ROCs for the NSW Independent Panel reviewing local government.
I also drew on other sources the Panel’s recent Future Directions paper, Somerville and Gibbs’ paper on legal and governance models for local government shared services and the Division of Local Government’s 2011 survey on collaborative arrangements.
A copy of the presentation can be downloaded here. In summary, I explored the reasons for councils to collaborate, the challenges involved and the requirements for a successful outcome, as well as the range of services currently shared by councils and the various models used.
The presentation also discusses some of the limitations of these models and the response proposed by the NSW Independent Review Panel, which revolves around replacing current regional collaboration structures including ROCs with a revamped County Council model. I also outlined a few of the alternative options which have been proposed to enhance council cooperation.
While there are significant differences between all these models, some degree of consensus is emerging about both the strategic importance of local government collaboration and the priorities these collaborative processes should address, as the Local Government NSW submission to the Review Panel noted. While this submission rejected the Panel’s County Council model, it noted that “…there is certainly interest in developing a regional entity that serves Local Government interests in the interactions with State and Australian Governments and remains Local Government owned and controlled.”
The criteria, aims and directions suggested by Local Government NSW for such an entity (which I summarised briefly at the conclusion of the presentation) are a useful basis for developing and evaluating collaborative models – even if there is disagreement over the governance frameworks that should be used.