Report says local councils are "struggling to cope"

Wednesday, 20 June 2001

Local councils in South Australia are struggling to cope as they try to do more work with fewer resources, according to a report released today by Adelaide University's Centre for Labour Research.

The study, Doing More With Less: Tension and Change in South Australian Local Government, says that the pressures are taking their toll on council employees, with three-quarters of those surveyed reporting rising levels of stress. The report will be launched at 12.30pm today (Wed.) at the Australian Services Union, 5-9 Rundle Street, Kent Town, by Jane Lomax Smith.

The study has found that new pressures are falling on local government as state and federal governments cut back commitments and fresh demands arise from local communities. "Local councils want to do more to provide services to local residents and rate payers - and in many cases, they are," says Dr Barbara Pocock, Director of the Centre for Labour Research.

"But our research shows that local government is being asked to take on this extra work without additional resources. This is putting strain on employees, elected councillors and managers in local councils."

The study used multiple methods to analyse the nature and impact of change in South Australian local government at the turn of the century, including analysis of past research, case studies, focus groups and interviews, and a survey of employees in a group of seven local councils.

"Councils are struggling with the tension of being - on the one hand - cost effective businesses, and - on the other - being a tier of government with service responsibilities to taxpayers and an important part of the fabric of local communities," says Dr Pocock. "Elected councillors face a job that is growing in size and complexity, with sometimes unclear boundaries between elected representatives and council managers and employees.

"Increased contracting out of services and other changes like amalgamation of councils have contributed to a growing sense of insecurity amongst many local government employees, most of whom see that fewer employees are doing more work, with three-quarters reporting rising levels of stress. If local government is to continue to do more, it needs more resources and needs to conserve its existing ones, particularly its workforce."


Contact Details

Ms Anne McEwen
The University of Adelaide
Australian Services Union
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Mobile: 0419 824 149

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The University of Adelaide
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Mr David Ellis
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External Relations
The University of Adelaide
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