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How NSW Councils Can Overcome the Challenges of Developing PDPs for Elected Members

October 24, 2022

As prescribed in the NSW Councillor Induction and Professional Development Guidelines, all Councils are required to prepare induction and ongoing professional development plans (PDP) to guide elected members through their tenure. These plans are to ensure that elected mayors and councillors have the knowledge and skills expected of them to carry out their civic role in the community. While it is mandatory to have these plans in place, it is actually a tricky task to put one together.

Centium has been working with several NSW Councils and their elected members to establish and implement professional development plans and report on their progress in their annual reports. This work has been fronted by Centium’s team of experts, including previous Burwood Council mayor and councillor, Lesley Furneaux-Cook.

Using a Capability Framework

The Local Government Capability Framework defines the skills, knowledge, and experience required to effectively do the job of an elected member.  It has now been adopted as best practice by the NSW Office of Local Government within the Induction and Professional Development Guidelines. During her 7 years as LGNSW Director, Lesley was part of the development of the Local Government Capability Framework.

“I am really proud to have worked on the Capability Framework” stated the former Councillor. “It was so timely given the legislation required for all Councillors and Mayors to have their own annual Professional Development Plans”

An effective process guides elected members through a reflective process so they can consider their own strengths and weaknesses against the framework. This way, they can identify learning opportunities that might be of benefit and interest to them during their tenure at the council. Undertaking a needs assessment to develop and monitor a professional development plan in collaboration with a third party, like Centium, to unpack it will help in overcoming the difficulties involved.

The challenge with establishing PDPs

In the words of Lesley Furneaux-Cook, “Myself, I found it a really steep learning curve when I first started as a councillor. I met issues that I would never normally encounter in my other job and I had to develop a whole new skill set and understanding to match not just what is required under the LG Act, but to meet the ever changing tasks that would come across our papers when we are deliberating issues in Council Chambers. This is not just a one-off learning, this is lifelong learning”

Lesley is also very much aware of the challenges that sometimes face general managers/CEOs in having a conversation about a councillor’s or mayor’s PD plan.

She pointed out that “the power structures that naturally exist in a council can make it difficult for staff to talk about potential skills development of councillors.”

Centium’s support for Needs Assessment & Program Plans

It is very important to have these plans in place, but it can be difficult to actually put one together without the assistance of a competent advisor with proven experience like Lesley Furneaux-Cook.

Centium can provide local government, governance, leadership and training experts who can assist in putting development plans together because they have been in the shoes of mayors and councillors who need a PDP in place.

Following best practice processes described earlier, we will also work with Council staff to develop practical and achievable PD Plans for each Mayor and Councillor. These plans will outline affordable and flexible options for professional development activities to fit into Councillors’ busy lifestyles.

Centium has worked with several NSW Councils in the past and is strategically positioned to support councils and councillors so they can make good decisions to benefit their communities.

For further information, please contact Centium’s Director, Local Government Improvement, Sarah Artist, for a no-obligation discussion at 0409-830-283 or at sarah.artist@centium.com.au. Alternatively, take a look at Centium's Councillor PDP Service Sheet below:

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