I was recently sent an article – “What’s the Future of Local Government? An Alliance White Paper Intended to Provoke a Needed Conversation” – that did an excellent job of summarizing the forces facing local government. Here are the forces the report identified:
Escalating demands and mission creep – the role of local government has evolved from simply providing services to property. Citizen expectations for action have increased in a whole variety of non-traditional areas.
Mandates without money – local governments have been mandated by provincial or federal governments to provide new services and enforce new regulations without an appropriate funding source. We are expecting more of this as new regulations for source water protection come into effect and the Drummond Report gets implemented.
Static structures – The structure and systems of local government were formed many decades ago and are not well suited for an increasingly fast-paced and interconnected world.
Accelerating technology – Technology offers significant opportunities to change service delivery and deliver value to taxpayers.
Big challenges cross boundaries – The solution to many issues that urban centres face today, like climate protection, immigration and poverty – do not rest with one institution and certainly not just local government. Local governments need to increase their capacity to work across private, public and community benefit sectors to coproduce public value.
Out-of-whack tax systems – Property taxes and user fees are inappropriate forms of taxation for many of the services being provided by municipalities today.
Citizen mistrust – There is decline in trust of all institutions, including local government despite how close it is to the people it serves and the high level of accountability and transparency relative to other levels of government. Trust in an organization by an individual is based on three things – a belief that the interests of the organization are aligned with their own, the organization does what it says it will do (integrity) and it is competent to do the job.
We have been responding to these forces in several ways and the Corporate Strategic Plan that is coming to Council at the end of the month consolidates our response to managing the change that will be required to efficiently and effectively respond to these forces. For instance:
- Service reviews begin the challenging conversation of escalating demands and mission creep
- The new Enterprise and Financial Services area introduces a more dynamic structure
- The Information Technology Strategic Plan will push us to realize the productivity benefits the private sector has achieved through new technologies
- The Community Wellbeing Initiative is engaging the four pillars of the community (private enterprise, public institutions, community benefit organizations and individuals) to address “big challenges that cross boundaries” while at the same time building citizen trust through their involvement in a process that engages them from the generation of ideas to the development of solutions