Covid’s impacts – and upsides – revealed in council CEO survey

Nearly six in 10 local government CEOs say the financial sustainability of their councils was negatively impacted by Covid-19, a new survey shows.

However, the survey also shows the pandemic has provided the impetus for many councils to “think outside of the box” about how to maximise revenue, keep costs down, and “sweat” their assets for maximum efficiency and capacity.

The Australian Local Government CEO Index 2021 was conducted by recruitment, advisory, and technology consulting firm Davidson to get a clearer picture of key priorities for councils in a post-Covid environment.

The survey of 110 CEOs from metropolitan and regional councils across Australia was themed under six key areas:

  • Financial Sustainability;
  • Community Engagement;
  • Risk and Governance;
  • Operational Excellence;
  • Employee Wellbeing; and
  • Technology.

Melbourne City Council CEO Justin Hanney said the extended lockdown and gradual recovery in his LGA had necessitated a focus on council fundamentals.

These included “ensuring service is maintained through digital transformation and positive customer experience and that our community is given the support it needs”.

“The differences between metropolitan and regional governments are characterised by a significantly more serious financial impact for metro organisations, but more success in achieving positive outcomes in operational excellence and employee wellbeing,” he said.

City of Hobart CEO Kelly Grigsby said 2020 has forced the hand of leaders and ensured a move to flexible working and the use of technology to undertake work.

“People leaders who were dragging their feet or showing light support had no option but to adjust and this ensured equity across the organisation,” she said.

South Gippsland Shire Council CEO Keryn Ellis concurred, saying: “The pandemic made us reassess how we currently operate and to see if things can be done differently and better”.