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Service Planning

The intent of service planning is to provide an overall picture of the services provided but more than this it is intended to align the services and the assets needed to provide the services and identify the funding required in the future to support the services. Should council need to adjust the service funding the service plans provide council with the options of adjusting service levels by deferring/increasing capital funding or deferring/increasing maintenance funding.

The service plans assist the Service Manager to articulate the services they provide and enable them to work with the Asset Manager to define their infrastructure capital and maintenance needs. This then assists the Asset Manager to plan future funding needs.

In Australia, service plans are in their infancy and vary depending on the buy-in of councils. Most Councils undertaking service planning are producing service plan summaries which is all that is expected of them now. It is intended that the quality of service plans will improve as the Service Manager’s understanding of service plans and the supporting process evolves. At this point in time it is fair to say that there is no identifiable best practice service plan in Australia as Councils find their way implementing this concept.

Most councils in Victoria are producing summary level service plans that typically contain the following details:

  • Division, department and Service Manager
  • Service provided and principles for service delivery
  • Service levels provided
  • Detail of Assets utilised
  • Alignment with Council plan and other Council documents
  • Key issues
  • Risks associated with service provision
  • Forward planning of infrastructure requirements
  • Improvements required to infrastructure
  • Future capital and maintenance requirements (potentially compiled with assistance from the asset manager).

However, Councils such as Moonee Valley are producing detailed service plans that report down to program level and are extensive in detail as they also contain the strategies moving forward for each service. It is hoped that service plans will become an integral part of council’s planning process so they can make decisions on services and assets supporting the services recognising the impacts that their decisions will have.

In New Zealand, where service planning has been implemented over a number of years’ councils have produced service plans known as ten year Long term Council Community Plans updated every three years with full community consultation.

These plans must set out the:

  • Levels of Service to be provided to the community
  • Capital projects required for their delivery
  • Asset renewal programmes required for delivery
  • Financial costs involved

The benefits identified have been:

  • Superior to traditional annual budget approach
  • High level of transparency
  • High level of elected member involvement (a year of workshops)
  • Better focus on defining levels of service
  • Use of benchmarks
  • All capital projects prioritised together, not in silos
  • Internal services (HR, IT) now included in process
  • Independent audit (Office of the Auditor General)”1