Ethics and governance | Locale Learning

Community Strategic Plan: your community’s roadmap

by | 14 June, 2022

Achieving outcomes for your community

Following the elections in December 2021, local councils across NSW have been busy reviewing and updating their Community Strategic Plans (CSP). This includes consulting with their communities to figure out:

  • Where are they now?
  • Where do they want to be in future?
  • How will they get there?
  • When will know they have arrived?

With the 30 June deadline looming, councils are focused on incorporating feedback from their communities into the CSP and associated strategic planning documents such as the Delivery Program and Operational Plan. In this blog, we take a moment to explain the Community Strategic Plan framework and a councillors role in it.

What is the Community Strategic Plan?

The Community Strategic Plan is the plan that “describes the community’s vision and aspirations for a period of ten of or more years.”  That is, it is a long-term plan for the community. It should set out the objectives and the high level strategies to achieve those objectives. 

Importantly, the CSP must address the the quadruple bottom line. This includes social, environmental, economic and civic leadership issues. This is why many CSPs have similar high level themes and objectives and are sometimes criticised for sounding the same across local government areas. 

We like to say that the CSP is like a roadmap for local councils to follow to achieve long-term change for their communities. 

What guides the creation of the CSP?

The CSP is not created in a vacuum. First, the Local Government Act 1993 sets out the statutory framework that all councils must follow across the State. This is known as the Integrated Planning & Reporting framework. This framework also includes:

Delivery Program

If the CSP is a long-term plan, the Delivery Program can be seen a medium term one. It sets out how council will deliver on the strategies in the CSP over the council term. It should contain broad actions aligned with the Resourcing Strategy.

Operational Plan

The Operational Plan is an annual plan that sets out the detailed actions will take to achieve the Delivery Program and CSP. It is aligned with the annual budget.

Resourcing strategy

This is a suite of three key plans that support the implementation of the CSP

  • Long term financial plan
  • Workforce management plan
  • Asset management plan

Councillors should be aware that the Office of Local Government has issued two important documents that guide the creation of all of these plans. This includes the IPR Guidelines and the IPR Handbook.  

Council’s role in the CSP

Notably, local councils have a custodial role in engaging, refining and preparing the plan on behalf of its community. Let us say that again in another way – councils are the custodian of the CSP. This is often not known or misunderstood at a community level (and even sometimes within councils). Many community members see the CSP as as council plan or document. 

Of course, councils can’t do it all on their own. The outcomes are meant to be driven by the whole community. As it is possible the community will identify aspirations that are not council’s full responsibility or role to implement, council will often need to partner with other levels of government, the NFP sector and community groups to deliver the outcomes in the plan.

Where actions are within council’s control and responsibility, the details for how these will be achieved will be set out in the Delivery Program (the four year plan that normally aligns with a council term) and then Operational Plan (the annual plan that goes along with the budget).

The elected council’s role

Strategic planning is a key part, if not the most important part, of the elected council’s role. Specifically, following the election, it is the responsibility of the elected council to develop and endorse the CSP:

  • taking on board input from the General Manager and advice from staff
  • through engagement with the community

At an individual level, councillors must participate in the development of the IPR framework.  At a day to day level, councillors should also be mindful of how any specific proposals (put forward either through notices of motions or resolutions of council) will impact upon the IPR framework.

Summing up

Recapping, the theory goes:

  • the CSP belongs to the community and is the long term vision for the community
  • council is custodian of the plan
  • it is up to everyone in the community to take a part in achieving the outcomes

However, the reality is there is often a disconnect between the CSP and the communities’ actions and expectations of council that can lead to finger pointing and blame. Next up in the blog, we will be sharing some tools to bridge this disconnect. 

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