ARARAT Rural City Council will lodge two bids with the state government which, if successful, would see it share services with five other councils, and obtain a systems upgrade enabling it to collaborate more effectively with another four councils.
The bids will be placed with the state government's Regional Councils Transformation Program, a $20 million fund aimed at helping rural councils improve service efficiencies and their financial sustainability.
According to the state government's website, the program aims to:
- Improve the financial sustainability of rural and regional councils by achieving economies of scale including through regional service delivery or collaborative procurement;
- Promote more efficient and improved service delivery through collaboration and innovation;
- Facilitate benefits for rural and regional communities, with priority given to those for rural communities; and
- Demonstrate potential efficiencies to be gained through regional service delivery.
Ararat Council chief Dr Tim Harrison said the council was partnering with several other regional Victorian shires to take part in the program.
The bids the council will place are:
Efficiencies Through Scale
In conjunction with Glenelg, Southern Grampians and Northern Grampians shires, council will seek an upgrade of common systems, technologies and processes necessary for the four councils to collaborate efficiently.
This would include the rationalisation and standardising of management, communication and IT systems.
The funding requested for this project is $5 million.
Central Highlands Councils Victoria Regional Shared Services project
This project would be undertaken in conjunction with Central Goldfields, Hepburn, Moorabool and Pyrenees shires, and the City of Ballarat.
It would include sharing building, environmental health and town planning services across the six municipalities.
The funding sought for this project is $5.5 million.
Dr Harrison said that if successful, the two projects had the capacity to transform Ararat Rural City Council's back office operations, improve efficiencies and better its financial sustainability.
"These projects will also reduce the duplication of statutory service functions and embed savings through improving service delivery," he said.
"Through collaboration and innovation, the councils will work together to redesign services to meet the community's needs and expectations, and provide a new platform focusing on the needs of our customers."
Dr Harrison said some further benefits would be risk reduction through using specialist skills and market-leading digital solutions, enhanced attractiveness of working in regional councils, attracting specialised workforces, and using specialised resources using cloud technologies.
However, at the council's April ordinary meeting, Dr Harrison said while both could receive approval, there was a chance only one may be approved.
In that case, he said greater priority should be given to the Efficiencies through Scale project.
"I think it has far greater commonalities and a far better result for us as a council and I'm sharing with ... four councils that have very similar issues at play," he said.
The state government will make its decision on the successful applicants in late May.
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