Hornsby Shire Council

Attachment to Report No. GM15/09 Page 0



General Manager's Report No. GM14/09

General Manager Division

Date of Meeting: 9/09/2009







Section 332 of the Local Government Act, requires that a Council must determine an organisation structure and Section 333 requires the Council within twelve months of an ordinary election to re-determine its organisation structure.


Following the introduction of the Local Government Act 1993, the Council has determined and subsequently confirmed, an organisation structure consisting of six Divisions.


Consideration of principles of organisation design and the priority areas of the current Management Plan shows that Council’s existing structure can be fundamentally confirmed.


As a consequence of a review of the organisation structure undertaken by the previous Council following the 2004 Ordinary Election, cross divisional work teams were instituted to address customer service, asset management, recreation services, economic development and compliance issues.  Following these reviews, one structural variation is proposed being the amalgamation of the strategic oversight of customer service functions under one Division.


Particular attention is given to the Strategy Division where two significant resignations have provided an opportunity to consider the future of this Division.


Following this review the Strategy Division could be dissolved with the functions of economic development and the development contribution plan being allocated to the Planning Division and the General Manager assuming direct management control of the Corporate Strategy and Human Resources Branches.


The Council will continue to adapt the organisation structure to meet changing circumstances and to ensure an improvement in the provision of services to the residents of the Shire.





It is proposed that Council in accordance with the Local Government Act 1993 review and determine its organisation structure and affirm the organisation structure.







Section 332 of the Local Government Act, requires that a Council must determine an organisation structure and Section 333 requires the Council within twelve months of an ordinary election to re-determine its organisation structure.


Following the introduction of the Local Government Act 1993, the Council determined and subsequently confirmed, an organisation structure consisting of six Divisions being:


General Manager;


Corporate & Community;


Planning; and



No definition is given within the Local Government Act of an organisation structure.  Council therefore, has determined its structure based upon these Divisions and functional responsibilities within each Division.  This has permitted the organisation to evolve and adapt to meet the requirements of a changing shire community.


Current Structure


The structure previously adopted by Council has involved the following rationale:




This Division was established to focus on the management of the strategic and forward planning aspects of Council in association with the other Divisions, in particular, to fulfil the expanding statutory requirements for future planning e.g., Management Plan.  In addition to providing a strategic focus, the other functions which have been incorporated into this Division assist Council with implementation of human resource planning and work place reforms.




The divisional focus for the Works Division has been the construction and maintenance of the physical built public infrastructure and structures within the Shire.


Such structures include:  roads, footpaths, drainage, public offices and community buildings.


Traffic management, road safety, strategic property issues and the operation of Council’s Aquatic Centres and Indoor Sports Stadium are also within this Division.




This Division was established to shape the natural and built environments of the Shire through the management of the approvals and strategic land use planning functions under the EPA Act.  This Division undertakes strategic land use planning and processes development applications and construction certificates enabling a work team approach to application processing.


Corporate & Community


The Corporate & Community Division is a service provider, providing internal services e.g., administration, finance and information and technology services to the organisation and community services e.g., library, child care and aged services, to the community.




This Division when created was a new approach representing a key priority of the Council and demonstrated a commitment to environmental issues.  Its functional responsibilities predominantly address the care, protection and maintenance of the natural environment and include waste services.


Principles of Organisation Design


Mercer (HR Consultants) and Michael Goold and Andrew Campbell from the Ashridge Business School have discussed the 6 principles of good organisation design which they consider will assist in addressing the most difficult challenges faced in ensuring organisational effectiveness.


They consider that having selected a basic organisation design, these six principles help address the key limitations or difficulties arising from any design and are useful to consider in a review:


·    The specialisation principle- unit boundaries should be defined to achieve the most important benefits available from specialisation (with a particular focus on what autonomy needs to be afforded to an organisation unit to allow it be effective against the predominant organisational culture)

·    The coordination principle – units should be defined so that the activities that most need to be coordinated fall within unit boundaries (with an ensuing focus on identifying and managing difficult links that fall across organisational boundaries)

·    The knowledge & competence principle – responsibilities should be allocated to the person or team best placed to assemble the relevant knowledge and competence at reasonable cost

·    The control & competence principle – units should be formed to facilitate effective, low cost control and commitment to appropriate goals

·    The innovation and adaptation principle – organisations should be structured so they can innovate and adapt as uncertainties become clarified and environments change

·    The complexity principle – the organisational design needs to sufficiently account for the complexities inherent to the business yet remain simple enough to allow capable people to work effectively.


Management Plan


When considering issues of organisational structure review, it is also important to contemplate that structure follows strategy.  It is relevant therefore, for Council to contemplate how the existing organisation structure can implement Council's adopted Management/Strategic Plan.


The Management Plan for 2009/10 – 2011/12 contains the following priority areas identified by Councillors at their Strategic Planning Workshop in February 2009:


·    Ensuring the financial sustainability of the organisation so it can respond to future challenges

·    Balancing the growing recreational and cultural needs with Council’s ability to provide

·    Maintaining infrastructure

·    Managing the Hornsby Quarry site

·    Increasing the commercial activity in Hornsby and the other town centres


Consideration of these priority areas shows that Council can accommodate the elements of the current and proposed Management Plans into the existing organisation and indicates that the existing structure can be fundamentally confirmed, giving each Division a chance to report difficulties, canvass issues to be resolved, etc. 


Management Plan reviews provide the basis for reporting progress against targets for each action. With the assessment of progress for each action, ExCo and the Council can determine whether any further organisation structure review would be beneficial.


2005 Review


As a consequence of the review of the Organisation Structure undertaken by the previous Council following the 2004 Ordinary election, the Council resolved inter alia that cross divisional work teams be instituted to address on a progressive basis the following:


-     customer service

-     asset management

-     recreation services

-     economic development

-     compliance


A brief summary is provided in respect to each review.


Customer Service Review


The Customer Service Review team was convened to evaluate the current customer service functions provided by Council, with a particular emphasis on services located in the Administration Building and to suggest enhancements in order to improve customer satisfaction when accessing information, processing transactions or requesting service.


The following broad recommendations were suggested by the review team, taking into account constraints such as the limited ability to change the layout of the Administration Building and staffing limitations.


1.   Develop, emphasise, reward and reinforce customer service culture

2.   Improve telephone protocol and demand adherence

3.   Re-design the website to be more user friendly and easier to navigate

4.   Reconfigure the layout and signage of current customer service points

5.   Explore management and reporting arrangements that will focus customer service issues in the organisation and allow escalation of issues where necessary

6.   Develop a single customer service policy that includes complaints handling

7.   Promote the functions of Council both internally and externally

8.   Review the customer service interface for the Traffic section.


Each of these recommendations has been addressed internally with recommendation 5 being the recommendation with an organisation structure potential impact.


During the review, the review team was of the opinion that customer service needed to cut across the traditional professions within Council and customers are often unaware of which customer service business location they need to contact.


It is considered that there would be significant benefit in amalgamating the strategic oversight of customer service functions under one Division.  Customer services frontline staff would not include library, waste or child care staff.  It would be proposed that the strategic oversight of customer service come under the management authority of the Manager, Corporate Strategy within the General Manager’s Division.  It is anticipated that this position would be responsible for establishing programs that:


a.         Facilitated the sharing of information, personnel and practices between the various decentralised customer service units; and

b.         Established a common set of performance requirements for customer service within Hornsby Shire Council.


Recreation Services


The provision of recreation services in Council was reviewed by a Project Group, drawn from each of the Divisions responsible for the provision of leisure services.  For the purposes of the exercise, leisure was defined to include open space resources, aquatic and indoor sport facilities and community and cultural facilities/services (Youth and Senior Citizen Centres, Galleries and Libraries, Performing/Visual Art facilities).


The Project Group canvassed some structural variances to the one currently operating within Council, including:


·    Amalgamation of leisure activities in one area of responsibility

·    Partial amalgamation – e.g. Aquatic/Indoor facilities and outdoor open space

·    Separation of strategic and operational matters.


The Project Group identified that the current structure, where outdoor recreation resides within the Environment Division; Aquatic, Indoor activities and cycleway provision reside with the Works Division; and Community and Cultural Activities reside with the Corporate and Community Services Division, functions because of the good co-operation that exists between the various Divisions.  It was considered that the current functional structure provided the best support to the various types of leisure services provided and encourages increased dialogue between Teams and Divisions which in itself is a desirable benefit.


The Project Group did however identify that there are certain shortcomings that would be common with any structure.  The existence of the Leisure Strategic Plan (Adopted in 2002) which identifies leisure needs across the Shire in all asset classes was seen as its strength.  The plan was formulated under the guidance of a Steering Committee made up of Managers of the various leisure/recreation classes within Councils.  It has directed the efforts of the various Division for the last few years.


The review has concluded that there are no pressing reasons to alter the current structure.  Notwithstanding, the Project Group is of the opinion that the provision of leisure services across the Shire, could be improved through an improved understanding of councillor and community expectations and an agreed understanding of the priority for the provision of leisure/recreation facilities.


Economic Development


Following the meeting of 9 March 2005, when the Organisational Structure Review was previously considered, economic development became a strategic focus of the Council.  Subsequently, reports were submitted to Council on 25 May 2005, 8 February 2006 and 8 November 2006, at which the economic development framework and economic development strategy for the Shire were considered and developed by Council.  Although not specifically stated, it was intended that during the period of the development of an economic strategy, relevant staff would be retained within the Strategy Division.  Following the establishment of the strategy, the placement of operational aspects within the organisation structure was to be reviewed.


Further comment is provided under the heading “Strategy Division”.




A Compliance Review Team was established to explore whether approvals and compliance functions should be separated to ensure compliance with Council’s requirements.  Areas included approvals for development, food shops, waste management facilities, construction certificates and related inspections.  It had been suggested that by separating the approvals function from the compliance function, greater compliance could be achieved.  Consequently, the purpose of the review is to determine whether the separation of the approvals and compliance functions had the potential benefits that would warrant structural reform.


The Team appreciated that the expertise of staff is shared between approvals and enforcement matters.  To separate these functions could necessitate a duplication of resources and may frustrate the communication of changes in legislation and best practice between staff.


With respect to the importance of communicating best practice and legislative changes to staff managing enforcement, it was considered that rather than separating approvals and compliance, there was a greater need for multi-skilling.


It was noted by the Review Team that assessment and inspection functions had been split within Assessment Team 1 of the Planning Division, to reduce the opportunities for corrupt behaviour.  To ensure that requirements are met and standards observed, in some circumstances it is necessary to separate the inspection and approval roles.


The Team also considered information published by the NSW Ombudsman and Planning NSW Practice Note on exercising discretion which included advice on overcoming problems associated with the exercise of discretion by:


·    Being aware of the legal limitations of discretion

·    Identify and avoiding conflicts of interest

·    Using clear and unambiguous controls

·    Carefully using performance based controls

·    Separating assessment and decision making functions.


Reading the enforcement guidelines for Councils published by NSW Ombudsman, it was apparent that enforcement had many discretionary facets.  Such discretion should be exercised in consideration of the intent of the law, fairness, equity and environmental outcomes. 


Consideration has also been given to the Department of Local Government’s ‘Reform Program – Promoting Better Practice’.  Upon recent investigation of like sized councils, the Department has noted the merits of creating a specialist compliance section that enables it to deal with a range of compliance initiatives.


Applying the above principles to the Hornsby context, it is considered that there would be benefit in exploring a separation of compliance functions within multi-skilled teams along the lines of ‘natural environment’ and ‘built environment’.  This aspect will be pursued but is not anticipated to impact upon organisational design at the macro level.


Asset Management


Asset management consists of a series of actions that, taken together, lead to the provision of infrastructure that is relevant to the community’s needs, appropriately maintained, and for which replacement or renewal arrangements have been made.  Financial decisions relating to assets form part of the asset management process, as does consultation that leads to the determination of a level of service appropriate to the community’s needs.


Asset management in Hornsby is based on plans prepared for the following key asset classes:  roads, stormwater drainage, foreshore facilities, public buildings, open spaces and leisure facilities.  Effective financial management underpins the actions taken in respect of the commissioning, operation, maintenance, renewal and eventual disposal of an asset.  These decisions are based on parameters that experience has shown to be largely unique to each asset class.  On this basis, the approach adopted by Council is that those with the expertise undertake the various actions relating to the management of an asset.  Branch Managers in the Corporate and Community Services (Administration Services, Community Services), Environment (Bushland and Biodiversity, Parks and Landscapes, Water Catchments) and Works Divisions (Aquatic and Recreation Facilities, Assets, Design and Construction, Engineering Services, Property Development) currently have the skills and/or the responsibility for such tasks.


One option for organisation structure could involve the separation of some of the various asset management tasks, currently undertaken within individual Divisions, and their incorporation in a single “assets” Branch or Division.  Separation in such a manner has the risk of loss of the synergy that comes from a detailed knowledge of the asset and its management (especially in determining where in the asset management cycle that any separation should occur), less effective supervision and management as managers who are not familiar with or have the requisite technical expertise to make decisions are required to do so, and increased costs of doing business as resources are duplicated to cover the increased skill acquisition, communication and consultation that may be required. 


Key recommendations/decisions relating to the acquisition or disposal of an asset are seen to be the responsibility of the asset “owner” (within the Works, Environment or Corporate and Community Services Divisions), who commissions the subsequent maintenance or other actions from within the organisation (usually the Works or Environment Divisions), or externally to the organisation.  This can occur within an organisation structure that has been determined on principles other than purely asset management. 


Experience has shown that the existing co-operative arrangements where decisions are made in consultation with the Branch Managers across Divisions, who have that expertise, have been effective in ensuring that Council’s assets are effectively managed.  Intentional consultation via inter-Divisional working parties and specific project management teams has been effective in ensuring the successful delivery of individual projects, and has also assisted in fostering communication generally across the organisation.


Review Questionnaire


During late 2008, an Organisation Review e-questionnaire was distributed to all staff that had access to a computer.  The participation rate was approximately 73% of whom 86% fully completed the Questionnaire.


A review of the responses received, indicates that of the issues raised, the majority are more related to the micro, rather than the macro level of organisation design and these will be determined by ExCo.  They do not however suggest an alternative divisional structure for Hornsby, but more imply a need to continue to review and consider the allocation of functional responsibilities amongst divisions.


Similarly, Councillors were invited to submit issues for consideration, in the Organisation Structure Review.  The responses received have been considered and incorporated into this Review.


Strategy Division


Within the Strategy Division, there have been two significant resignations, which have provided the opportunity to give particular consideration to the future of this Division.


The Strategy Division coordinates change within council, including the development of the three year Management Plan, the blueprint for council operations.  Through quarterly reviews, the Division also works to ensure council is meeting industry standards, community expectations and its own objectives in providing services to Hornsby Shire.


The Human Resources Branch facilitates and leads changes in workplace reform.  The Branch also encourages staff to enhance their individual and professional skills through training and development, which works to promote leadership and teamwork skills in their contact with council and the community.


Under the Development Contribution Program (Section 94), the Division coordinates the expenditure of funds collected to provide playing fields, playgrounds and parks, bushland regeneration, community facilities and roadworks required as a result of new development in the Shire.


Strategy also assists council in economic development and tourism, with an emphasis on revitalising and strengthening employment in the shire’s commercial and industrial sectors.


The substantive issues of the Development Contribution Plan and Economic Development were initially under the umbrella of the Strategy Division to establish the strategic framework for these two functions. Having now established the strategic focus, both have become more operational and are able to be transferred to the Planning Division. 


The Development Contribution Plan review has already been allocated to the Strategic Planning Branch of the Planning Division and its responsibility should now be formally transferred.  Operational issues in relation to the granting of approvals for expenditure from the plan can be allocated to the Finance Branch of the Corporate & Community Division.


Similarly with respect to Economic Development, the Economic Development Strategy has been approved by Council and the function is now more focussed upon liaising with the business community, overseeing the operations of the Visitor Information Centre and marketing and promoting the Shire generally.


The Strategy Division could therefore be dissolved, but its functions remain as two distinct Branches which are re-allocated to other Divisions.


It is therefore necessary to consider to which Division or Divisions the two remaining distinct Branches should be re-allocated. Both retain to a certain extent, a strategic focus, but also have an impact upon the whole organisation.  There is also greater importance being placed upon the role of Management Planning, with the introduction into State Parliament of the Local Government Amendment (Planning & Reporting) Bill 2009.


Under these circumstances, it is proposed that both the Human Resources Branch and the Corporate Strategy Branch come within the direct management control of the General Manager.  Additionally it is proposed that the Corporate Strategy Branch Manager accept the strategic oversight of customer service functions.





There are no budget implications in this Report.





There are no direct policy implications in respect of the recommendations contained within the Report.





This Report has been prepared following consultation with Councillors and the Executive Managers.





As this Report substantially provides Council with information related to investigations and surveys, and does not propose any significant actions, it is considered that no Triple Bottom Line considerations apply which require a sustainability assessment.





The General Manager, Mr Robert Ball.





Hornsby Shire Council

Attachment to Report No. GM15/09 Page 9





1.   The Organisation Structure be determined to consist of five (5) Divisions being:


·    General Manager

·    Corporate & Community

·    Works

·    Planning

·    Environment.


2.   The General Manager’s Division include a Corporate Strategy Branch and a Human Resources Branch.


The Manager, Corporate Strategy within the General Manager’s Division assume responsibility for the decentralised Customer Service function in accordance with the requirements set out in this report.







Robert Ball

General Manager

General Manager Division





There are no attachments for this report.


File Reference:           F2005/00087

Document Number:   D01229745