Councils Serious About Service

Councils Serious About Service

There’s nothing like a High Court decision to concentrate the mind. Local Councils have a new mission on assets after a landmark High Court decision — which ruled out ‘highway immunity’ as a legitimate defence — made clear they must improve their asset management systems. The Court’s principles of discovery and repair of foreseeable risks placed the onus on Councils to reduce the risk of public liability.

One Council with a head start is The City of Whittlesea, which was developing an Integrated Asset Management Plan before the High Court ruling but has since applied it to pavements, pathways and roads in response to a new Victorian Auditor General’s report. The system both establishes a chain of management and also identifies risks on Council roads, bridges, furniture, buildings, equipment, parks and gardens using GPS technology.

Director of organisation development, Neill Hocking says Whittlesea has a range of processes in place involving the use of GPS mobile computing solutions to collect data.

“We’re storing that data in our corporate database, and also from roads in particular in our pavement management system, and our aim is to ensure that all that information is available so that we can then develop proactive planned programs for the management of our assets — the roads, the paths, the footpaths, those sorts of things.”

Whittlesea is also heavily into forward planning, and has a plan for its infrastructure requirements to 2016 based on detailed population projections.

“We know what’s going to be needed into the future, and how we need to maintain our existing assets, and we’ve got some key expenditure areas that will kick in, in about 2010 with a lot of our roads reaching their age limit. It’s enabled us within the Council to talk about the needed programs now, to ensure that we don’t have an unmanageable situation in the future,” Hocking says.

Meanwhile, after a three year collaborative R&D exercise, local government also has access to an innovative and multi-award winning asset and service delivery benchmarking system.

The outcome of a three year collaborative R&D initiative between nine leading Victorian Councils, Melbourne’s Swinburne University and New Zealand firm UNITECH, Logometrix complements established fixed asset management systems but lets Councils significantly increase service levels to the community and benchmark facility performance.

The brainchild of Professor Russell Kenley, who has had considerable experience assisting Councils in Australia and NZ with facility management issues, Logometrix is a secure Web based application that has undergone extensive testing at city and regional council level, including by Melbourne City Council, Bass Coast Shire, Stonnington and Moonee Valley. It will be released nationally later this year and is also likely to be made available to New Zealand Councils.

In a recent paper on the product Kenley explained local government authorities (LGAs) typically find it hard to manage their properties and systems strategically.

“On the surface, this problem is one of being able to persuade stakeholders to accept management decisions about the best way to deliver services through facilities, persuasion being required because of an inherent distrust in the system and the persistent believe in the community that changes in facility management equate to reductions in service.

“However communications difficulties do not only occur with stakeholders external to the organisation. Internal stakeholders too, have difficulties making themselves heard and communicating their needs as well as the reasons for the decision making. The problem is therefore one of communication of motives in an environment of mistrust.”

Logometrix was developed in response to this need for a new macro model for the evaluation of community facilities applicable to the local government context. Its developers claim Logometrix can help remove the environment of distrust and provide information to stakeholders that can empower management to make strategic decision s about the future of facilities.

In the Logometrix service-oriented model, its developers say, the facility is understood as the intersection of aspects of service provision, physical building substance and the community employing the facility. In bringing together these diverse aspects of facility performance, Logometrix uses a balanced approach that incorporates service, community, financial and building related measurements.

While many Victorian Councils implemented asset management systems over the past decade, Logometrix can provide additional information, including:

—Is the facility effective?

—Does it meet community needs?

—How does it compare with similar facilities at other Councils?

—Should it be closed, and so forth?

In answering these questions, Logometrix treats the facility as the junction of the asset and the service. Facilities are evaluated using a balanced set of strategic indicators that capture asset, service, community, financial, utilisation and environmental performance of Council facilities.

Logometrix has already won two international awards, including being recognised by the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) with the Award for Best Paper on FM Innovation at the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction’s (CIB) Global Symposium in Glasgow in 2002.

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More about Integrated Asset ManagementOffice of the Auditor GeneralProvisionSwinburne University

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