Prudence: Are we good at spending the money we receive and do we use all our available resources (human, technical, financial) efficiently and productively?
Question 9 in the “10 Hardest Questions to answer in Local Government”.
One thing I can guarantee you is that we are one of the most prudent, shrewd and careful councils in Queensland. We don’t have the surplus funds which some other councils have the luxury of having as we simply don’t have the income/rate base they do. Each dollar we collect via rates or charges; and each dollar we have managed to pry from the State and Federal budgets, means something to us.
Our council employs approximately 200 FTE (full time equivalent) staff to complete a range of tasks such as: Animal Control, Biosecurity, Cemeteries, Development and Planning, Environmental waste, Future planning, Gardens, Heavy Vehicle access, Parks, Roads and Rates, Swimming Pools, Tenders and Water to just name a few. Across a region bigger than the council areas of Brisbane, Noosa, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Lockyer, Logan, Moreton Bay, Redlands, Sunshine Coast and Bundaberg combined. The major difference being, these councils combined have a population of over 3 million people yet we have a population of 10,000.
It’s vital to note however, that we are expected to deliver and report on the same things as our council cousins. Just because we may only have a fraction of their service usage, our reporting requirements to other authorities are the same and our legislative requirements are the same. To complicate matters even further (because we love a good challenge) the size of our region necessitates we have to double up on some services for convenience and travel costs.
In regards to our financial resources, the hardest issue we face is what to prioritise our spending on. Many people tell us its easy…just spend it on roads, but as council we have to think further afield than that. With no corporate spend in our region providing livability parks and recreational activities are often funded by development companies and private enterprise in other council areas) council is also left to provide a sense of livability to our residents. The desire to have smooth, bitumen roads, safe water on tap, sewerage, recreational activities, events, beautiful places and spaces does not diminish the further you live away from the coast, it simply just becomes less achievable due to limited corporate spending in the region and a lack of population affecting councils financial resourcing.
All in all, it’s a balancing act – a similar one to your household budget. There is never enough money, time or people around to do the work you see needs doing but year after year, you keep plugging away at what you can get done with the resources you have, all the while hoping you will one day win lotto (or in the regions case, attract an industry or three which will bring jobs/people to the region).