Christchurch City Council Chief Executive Dawn Baxendale says she is committed to continuing to ensure the organisation is focusing its resources in the right place and operating as efficiently as possible.
Mrs Baxendale has today released her response to the recommendations of the External Advisory Group (EAG) that was set up to provide independent, expert advice to the Mayor, Councillors and Chief Executive as they developed the 2021-31 Long Term Plan.
Mrs Baxendale’s response was discussed in the public excluded section of the Council meeting and now it, along with the EAG’s report, is being made publicly available.
Some information in both documents has been redacted as it is either commercially sensitive or relates to private employment matters.
“The EAG had a particular focus on reviewing cost drivers and identifying potential cost saving options and they provided us with many useful recommendations on how we could do things better and more efficiently,’’ Mrs Baxendale says.
“I have proposed some tough decisions to reduce our expenditure, including reducing our lower priority projects and services and constraining salaries and discretionary spend,’’ Mrs Baxendale says.
“I am committed to ensuring that our organisation is focusing its resources in the right place and operating as efficiently as possible to meet the needs and preferences of residents. They have told us through the Residents’ Survey that they expect us to get the basics right and we must do that.’’
Mrs Baxendale says a significant number of the actions the EAG recommended in their report, she had already initiated and ensured they were incorporated into the Draft LTP.
“For example, the EAG recommended that we carry out a review of contract management practices at Council. This has been done and we have realised $7.8 million worth of savings and cost avoidance through contract efficiencies.
“We are constantly working with our largest providers to achieve cost savings and efficiencies through our significant contracts and this work will continue as a matter of course,’’ Mrs Baxendale says.
“The EAG also recommended that we should give priority to activities that are core to local government operations, such as roading and water, as well as those community infrastructure and capital projects that will stimulate the local economy while reducing longer-term running costs.
“We have taken that on board and our Draft LTP provides for a $3.774 billion investment over the next 10 years in our three waters network and our roading and transport systems.’’
Mrs Baxendale says the EAG also noted in its report that Council structures and processes are ‘‘unnecessarily complicated and box ticky’’.
“I continue to be committed to breaking down internal silos and making our structures and processes effective, efficient, flexible, responsive and transparent,’’ she says. “This will involve incremental as well as breakthrough improvements. When processes are unnecessarily complicated, it is frustrating for staff, elected members and our residents.’’
Mrs Baxendale says some of the recommendations put forward by the EAG have yet to be adopted, or implemented, as they require further consideration and examination.
“Ratepayers can rest assured that I am very mindful of the need to keep costs down so I am continually looking at how we can deliver services in a cost-effective way that meets their requirements.’’