Mayor Gail Giles-Gidney describes Willoughby’s cultural edge.
What is your vision for the city?
Council’s adopted “vision” is Willoughby: the vital hub of the region, where residential, cultural, economic and environmental interests are respected and balanced, and our communities enjoy a diversity of lifestyles.
Personally, my vision is to see Willoughby City as the premier cultural and economic hub within the Sydney North Shore.
How will technology help?
Technology plays a vital role in making information and services more accessible to our community, as well as ensuring Council’s internal processes function in an efficient manner.
Technology is also crucial in ensuring community information and data is secure, and that Council can continue on with business as usual in the event of any disruptions.
How will you develop your digital services?
Council is currently working towards providing more online and self-service options for our community. This includes enabling the community to have 24/7 access to information, payments and bookings so that we become a more efficient and smarter city.
What has been the greatest innovation from your civil service?
It is hard to pinpoint a greatest innovation. However, some highlights from recent years include:
Willoughby Council is highly awarded and recognised for its work in the sustainability field – funding projects and services that make our community’s lives more sustainable, as well as the way Council does business.
In recent years, projects like The Concourse in Chatswood, opened in 2011 – of one of the largest public infrastructure projects undertaken by a local government – has helped put Willoughby and Chatswood area on the map. The Concourse is a cultural hub in the heart of Chatswood featuring a performing arts centre, library, conference facilities, retail and dining, and soon accommodation.
In 2015 Willoughby Council became the first Council to bring Vivid Sydney, the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas to a suburban area of Sydney outside of the main CBD. And we hosted Vivid Sydney again in 2016. Not only was this event a major boon for our local businesses and tourism, but it adds to the vibrancy and cultural offerings available to our own community.
Council’s recent focus on innovating and improving services, facilities and programs through smart financial and organisational management is also a highlight.
How is the city using feedback from citizens?
Community consultation plays a vital role in Willoughby Council’s decision making processes. Council values our community’s feedback, and it is at the core of planning and ensuring we deliver services and programs suited to our community’s needs.
One of the main ways we gather community feedback is through our Have Your Say web portal, where we run community consultations, and surveys on a wide range of community issues, policies and service delivery areas. We also host public meetings and public information sessions when necessary.
We have many other ways that we ways we engage with our community – such as through committees and advisory groups, our Customer Service Centre, social media or meeting and talking to community members in person.
What has been the biggest challenge that the city overcame in 2016?
Council is faced with many constant challenges, though 2016 has been a time of impending change given the NSW State Government’s reforms to Local Government and the potential merger of Willoughby Council with two neighbouring Councils.
While many other Councils across NSW were merged in May of this year, at the time, Willoughby Council was not merged due to the pending legal processes by North Sydney and Mosman Councils. This is still ongoing.
During this time, Council has focused on continuing to work with our community ‘business as usual’ to deliver and improve local services and support, as well as keeping our community informed of important developments.
What is your top priority for 2017?
Council’s recent focus on improving services, facilities and programs through smart financial and organisational management will continue.
What is the biggest area of spending for the city?
Council’s 2015/2016 operating expenditure totalled AU$99.486M.
The largest individual program allocation was to Recreation & Culture totalling AU$26.507M. This program includes important community assets such as: Public Libraries, Community Centres and Halls, Performing Arts, Sporting and Recreational Facilities, Swimming Pools, and Parks and Gardens.
If I were to visit your city, what one place would you recommend?
Our “City of Diversity” is not only reflected in the people who live here, but also in the places you can experience. The Chatswood CBD has wonderful restaurants, world class shopping and entertainment. You can do amazing bush walks along the natural harbour foreshore, visit one of our beautiful golf courses, or watch sport being played on one of our sporting facilities.