Horowhenua District Council

Joining forces enables Council to make considerable operational savings and enhance the quality of service provided to its ratepayers.

Sharing council services creates spin-off benefits

Horowhenua District Council logoJoining forces with a number of other councils has enabled the Horowhenua District Council to make considerable operational savings, and enhance the quality of service that it is able to provide to its ratepayers.

Effectiveness is simply doing things better. Efficiency is delivering services to the level of public expectation.

Three years ago, following an initiative of the respective Chief Executives of seven councils within the Manawatu-Whanganui region, a collective decision was made to form a shared services company, Manawatu-Wanganui Local Authority Shared Services (MWLASS). Shareholder councils of this company are Horizons Regional Council, and Horowhenua, Manawatu, Rangitikei, Ruapehu, Tararua, and Wanganui District Councils. 

MWLASS’s vision is to:

  • promote collaboration between councils in the delivery of all services, particularly support services;
  • aspire to excellence and best practice in all services provided; and
  • recognise that collaborative services can only be provided with the support and involvement of staff.

The Directors of MWLASS adopted a strategic plan that identified a number of expected benefits to the shareholder councils, including:

  • improved levels and quality of service;
  • a co-ordinated and consistent approach to the provision of services;
  • reductions in the cost of support and administrative services; and
  • provision of opportunities to develop new initiatives.

With the support of the Directors of MWLASS, seven of whom are also Chief Executives of their respective councils, MWLASS set about determining which initiatives could best provide those expected benefits. MWLASS employed a Chief Executive, whose role was to prepare policy papers and suggested direction for the Directors to follow in achieving those benefits. MWLASS has adopted a significant number of initiatives during its three years, which have provided service delivery benefits and financial savings across the member councils, including:

  • a collaborative approach to regional archives that saved $1.5m;
  • collective rating valuation services that will save over $900,000 during a nine-year contract;
  • pooling of insurance services that saved over $500,000 during a three-year period;
  • a collective approach to regional aerial photography that saved over $100,000;
  • a collective approach to rates modelling software that saved $30,000; and
  • a combined subscription HR legal services.

“The unique thing about local government is that councils don’t necessarily compete with each other,” says David Ward, Chief Executive of Horowhenua District Council. “So why not pool their resources? In my view, there is absolutely no doubt that not only have the shareholder councils of MWLASS significantly benefited from this collective approach, but we have established a very good blueprint for others to follow and therefore also reap similar benefits. Along the way there have been a number of potential opportunities that we have considered but decided not to pursue because they did not necessarily address the level of benefit that we were looking to deliver for our shareholder members.

“One of the positive spin-offs has been the ability to strive for a more complementary level of service delivery across the member councils. We recognise that, given our geographic location, we will from time to time have common clients particularly in the trades sector – therefore we should be able to provide comparable levels of service. And I believe that we are achieving this. One of the outcomes to this, from a staff perspective, is that we will be able to look after each others needs when one of us has a spike in activity or, maybe experiencing resourcing difficulties. Indeed, there are a number of examples where this has already happened with my own council.”

Although the councils have been satisfied that they are making good effectiveness and efficiency gains, Mr Ward says the drivers for changes have to come from the Chief Executive and senior management levels. That’s the key to success.

Mr Ward advises other councils approaching the sharing of some of their services to start with something that will provide quick success. “Get quick runs on board,” he says. “Start with the easy-to-achieve stuff, and use that to build success.”

Based on an interview with David Ward, Chief Executive, on 19 June 2012.

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