Significant progress made, says Administrator in end of term report
Tuesday 22 August 2017
Significant progress has been made over the past 16 months to create a modern, high performing, customer-focused Inner West Council, but there is still more work to be done, Administrator of Inner West Council Richard Pearson said today.
Releasing his end of term report, Mr Pearson said the merger had been very challenging to implement given community apprehension and heightened community anger over the State Government’s WestConnex motorway, an issue which has dominated his agenda.
“Despite the challenges, I am very proud of the work that has been done to create a new Inner West Council,” Mr Pearson said.
“An inherited budget deficit of $4.8 million was cleared in the first 12 months of our operation and our 2017/18 budget is fully funded.
“Annual savings of $2.5 million have been made to date - with predicted savings of $60 million over our first 10 years.
“A record additional $22 million has been spent on infrastructure in our first full financial year and from this year an extra $14 million in infrastructure funding received from the State Government will be used to upgrade our ageing infrastructure.
“Importantly Council is using its stronger voice to advocate for the local community on major State planning and infrastructure decisions, including Parramatta Road renewal, affordable housing and WestConnex.
“Council advocated for the need to provide a modern, efficient and transformative public transport option along Parramatta Road and I am pleased we are finalising arrangements with the State Government to undertake a joint preliminary study into our proposal for a Guided Electric Transport System.
“Council introduced a city-leading Affordable Housing policy in March 2017 which sets targets of 15% on large private sites and 30% on government owned sites which was strongly supported by our local community.
“We are currently working with the Department of Planning and Environment to enable a streamlined approach to implementation of the policy.
“While the State Government is intent on rolling out the WestConnex project, Council has achieved a number of significant wins for the community including obtaining a dedicated in-house Compliance Officer to ensure the project complies with its conditions of approval.
“We also gained a guarantee that all residual lands associated with the project will be given back to the community, secured undergrounding of the proposed Rozelle interchange, and were successful in getting plans to construct a dive site next to Sydney Secondary College at Leichhardt abandoned.
“Council has also been successful in securing a substantial $7.25 million boost to funding of the GreenWay active travel and open space corridor to complete the remaining 3.2 kms of the Greenway shared path from Parramatta Road to the Cooks River by 2021.
“The ability to get better results for our community from State Government planning and infrastructure projects is, for me, one of the key non-negotiables of council mergers – and the early signs are that our views are being taken seriously.
“Another of the more important tasks I faced as Administrator was to ensure that from day one there was no disruption to or reduction in the vast array of services Council provides and I am happy to report this has been the case.
“Preliminary figures from our latest community satisfaction survey show a significant 5% improvement in our customer satisfaction rating from 85% to 90% in our first year of operation, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Council staff.”
Mr Pearson said during his term as Administrator he focused on trying to deliver benefits to the community across the five key areas of financial management, service delivery, infrastructure spending, advocating for the local community and engaging with it.
He said he estimated that 60-70 per cent of merger work had been done but the incoming Council still faced a number of challenges to build an organisationally merged Council.
“The next 12 months will be a pivotal time for the incoming Council to continue to support staff with their job of building an organisationally merged Council,” Mr Pearson said.
“Council will also need to finalise service reviews in key areas in order to achieve consistent service delivery throughout the merged Council area.
“The Community Strategic Plan which will be presented to the new Council will need to be consulted on and finalised, and the most effective long-term accommodation strategy for Council and its staff finalised.”
The full Administrator’s Report can be viewed on Council’s website
Administrator’s Report Key Highlights
Inner West Council was proclaimed on 12 May 2016 and combines the former councils of Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville. The Local Government Area (LGA) has an estimated population of 187,576 people, with the area spanning 36km2 from the banks of Parramatta River at Birchgrove in the north east, to the Cooks River at Dulwich Hill in the south west. The population density is 53.45 persons per hectare, with an average household size of 2.33.
In the first 16 months Inner West Council has achieved many tangible benefits for the community, including:
• Clearing an inherited budget deficit of $4.8 million in the first 12 months
• $2.5 million in annual savings in executive salaries and insurances locked in, with predicted savings of $60 million over our first 10 years
• A record $22 million more spent on infrastructure in our first full financial year, with a similar result expected in 2017/18
• An extra $14 million in infrastructure funding received from the State Government, to be spent over our first three years enabling our ageing infrastructure to be upgraded
• Council is exerting greater influence in major State planning and infrastructure decisions, including for Parramatta Road, affordable housing and WestConnex as a result of its increased voice
• Great progress on creating a modern, high performing customer-focussed organisation, with preliminary figures showing a 5% improvement in our customer satisfaction rating (Micromex 2017) from 85% to 90% in our first year of operation
• During the first year of the new Council, nearly $300,000 worth of projects were funded by Council under the Stronger Communities Fund
• A new Investment Policy introduced which has a target of a 70% non-fossil fuel investment portfolio by June 2018 which will comfortably make IWC the leading non-fossil fuel investment council in NSW
• The Development Application process has been fundamentally reformed to ensure improved processing times and assist ‘mums and dads’ applications. As a result the percentage of housing approvals determined in less than 40 days has improved from 20% in 2015/16 to 45% in our two service areas where we have eliminated backlog applications.
• Changes to service provision including customer service centres being enable to take the majority of transactions including paying of rates and return of library books to occur across the LGA; swimming passes can be used interchangeably across pools (except the privately run facilities in the Marrickville service area)
• Outdoor dining fees harmonised across the LGA to ensure a level playing field for businesses
• Funding secured from Transport for NSW matched by a $7.25 million commitment by Council to complete the remaining 3.2 kms of the Greenway shared path, from Parramatta Road to the Cooks River, by 2021
• Improved governance and transparency measures introduced, including Inner West Planning Panel, Council Ombudsman and live-streaming of Council meetings.