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Review Provides Power For Councils To Grow Up!

Local Government Act Review Provides Power For Councils To Grow Up!

‘When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, to think as a child, to reason as a child. But now that I’ve become a man, I have put away childish things. 1Cor 13.

Local government Mayors and CEOs have been urged by the keynote speaker at the Local Government New Zealand Conference, to see the current review of the Local Government Act as a “coming of age” – an opportunity to achieve legislative adulthood alongside central Government.

Bob Chilton, Director of the United Kingdom Audit Commission, said the New Zealand experience over the last ten years of local government reorganization has been influential in affecting some of the reforms within local government in the UK. However he said while this country is now treading water, the UK has taken the lead.

“This process is about adult behavior,” he said. “It’s about visionary stuff…and we don’t have to ask Dad if we want to take the car anymore!” We’ve had a constellation of significant modernizing initiatives which have propelled us in to the lead, including the power of general competence, but by another name – ‘The power of well-being’, he said.

He said that there has been a turnaround from central government funding, solely based on need – which meant the bigger your problem, the more money you got– to an investment model mechanism based on funding for solutions. In addition, Dr Chilton told the 660 plus delegates about the experience his government had with the development of Community Strategies. A similar proposal coined “Long Term Council Plan’ is proposed within the Local Government Act Review consultation document.

“Community Strategies are important in planning where you want to go as a community. Underpinning that strategy is accountability and active participation,” he said.

“If you go out from your Council and say ‘we were elected and we know best’, some people will walk away from you. You need local consent, if others are to throw their weight behind the strategy. Developing a community strategy is essential to harness not only public but private sector agencies … and grown up behavior requires some compromise.

“The Local Government Review document seeks to provide local government with the potential to undertake projects beyond its boundaries. It is important to realize this concept is a first, not last, resort.”

Dr Chilton said the UK model preferred to focus on outcomes (well-being) rather than means (competence). “In the UK we define power of general competence as the ‘power to promote or improve economic and social or environmental well-being,” he said. “It’s an inspirational power, not a residual one.”

Dr Chilton advised councils to identify their weaknesses in order to form partnerships with others to fill those gaps and working together to achieve greater ends.

Dr Chilton said that local government is not omnipotent (all knowing) and urged councils to let go – to let what others can do better do it, and work alongside them to make things happen.

“If you see powers of general competence as a responsibility just within your budget, you’re missing the point,” he told delegates. “Use your money smartly and work with other agencies and their budgets too!”

“Competence is not only defined by skill, but the ability to partner – to be adult and recognize the different and skill and experience offered by the people and agencies around us.”

Bob Chilton then encouraged local government organizations within New Zealand to enjoy diversity, be adult, and enjoy a new local government. He welcomed them to the ‘grown up game!’

The Local Government New Zealand Conference, ‘Elective Surgery – Changing the Face of Local Government’, is being held at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington from Monday 16 until Wednesday 18 July.

Ends

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