UP TO 50 Bass Coast Council staff may lose their jobs as the council seeks to cut costs by sharing administrative services with three other Gippsland councils.
Affected staff were informed yesterday that the four councils – Bass Coast, South Gippsland, Wellington and East Gippsland – are investigating whether a stand-alone unit could deliver their combined corporate services and IT functions more cheaply and efficiently.
He said the payback period had been estimated at four years but this could be shortened if the councils secure funding through the Victorian Government’s $20 million Rural and Regional Council Transformation Program.
The loss of jobs would be a heavy blow in an area where permanent administrative jobs are hard to come by.
Currently Bass Coast Council employs 54.8 FTE (full-time equivalent) staff in back-office/corporate services and IT services.
Mr Brady stressed that not all roles are necessarily affected. “Each council needs to determine which services it would deliver through the proposed model and this will be investigated over the next 12 months.”
He said there would be opportunities for deployment both within the council and the new entity. The four councils have yet to determine where the new unit will be based but if you drew a line connecting the four council headquarters – Wonthaggi, Leongatha, Sale and Bairnsdale – the central point would be somewhere near Rosedale.
By weight of population the unit also appears more likely to be situated towards the east of the combined territories. Wellington and East Gippsland shires have a combined population of more than 93,000 while the combined population of Bass Coast and South Gippsland is about 51,000.
However, Mr Brady said consideration would also be given to a distributed model, with various functions operating out of different shires, which would help to retain local jobs.
He said the inquiry would investigate the impact on the local economy. Savings from the project could be earmarked for new projects that create local jobs.
With the implementation expected to take three to four years, those decisions will be made by a future council, which may use them for capital works to expedite new projects and infrastructure or simply to reduce rates or rate rises.
Mr Brady said the council had an obligation to the community to deliver efficiencies but also an obligation to support staff. “We will do everything we can to support our staff in terms of future employment.”
Answers supplied by Mark Brady, acting CEO of Bass Coast Shire Council.
Will this be a separate entity (like West Gippsland Regional Library Corporation)?
Over the next 12 months, the four councils will explore what the model may look like, but it is based on a similar entity, such as WGRLC. It is a collaborative approach by a group of councils to deliver a service or services to the participating councils.
Shared services seek to ensure efficient and effective delivery of council services through the potential establishment of a new entity that would be co-owned by the participating councils and reduce duplication of services.
Where will it be based?
Location of the entity is yet to be determined and will form part of the investigation in the next 12 months.
The final decision on the location will be driven largely by business requirements, cost and digital connectivity needs. However the four councils are committed that this be at a location in Gippsland.
How many BCSC staff are currently employed in back-office/corporate services and IT?
At Bass Coast it is 54.8 FTE. I wish to make an important point that this does not mean all 54.8 FTE roles are affected. Each council needs to determine which services it would deliver through the proposed model and this will be investigated over the next 12 months.
What are “back office” jobs?
Back-office type jobs are typically the corporate service roles you find in many medium to large organisations. For example these may include human resource services, finance and accounting services, and IT roles.
Under the new model, how many local jobs will disappear?
At this stage, no decision on the specific number of job roles affected has been made. A number of corporate administrative roles in each Council will be reviewed over the next 12 months.
Opportunities for redeployment?
As roles are confirmed to be included in a potential shared services delivery model, affected staff will be advised and provided guidance and assistance where possible for redeployment within the organisation, possibly transferring to a new shared services entity, or redundancy.
Potential savings of the shared services model?
The four councils could collectively save up to $10.8m per year (after implementation), but this will depend on those functions which are agreed to be transferred into the joint shared services entity. The payback period has been estimated at four years; however, this could be significantly shortened if the entity receives a funding contribution from State Government
What are the costs?
$500,000 has been allocated in the 2018/19 Budget. This money is for Council’s contribution towards the detailed business case and service modelling and to commence implementing the entity should Council decide to proceed.
What about Baw Baw and La Trobe councils?
At this stage four Gippsland councils have committed to progress to the next stage of further investigation into the establishment of a shared services entity. Other councils may still choose to join the entity either at its inception or a later date.
Is this the first step to amalgamation?
No, amalgamations are not on the agenda.
Are any other Victorian (or Australian) councils operating this sort of model?
Libraries are already a shared service and councils across Australia have shared service arrangements for a variety of specific services – Towong and Indigo share rates and property services, South Gippsland and Baw Baw share risk management, etc.
The model and potential scale that we will be investigating seems to be quite innovative for rural councils in Victoria.
The State Government through Local Government Victoria has been engaged and are supportive of the process to date.
Funding opportunities for rural/regional councils to better collaborate in service delivery has been announced and the participating councils will be seeking significant contribution from the state government through this program of funding.