Paul Dunne, LGMA Chief Executive spoke to Public Sector Magazine about the role of the agency and some of the key projects in development. The LGMA was recognised for services to local authorities in the Public Sector Magazine Excellence in Business Awards 2018.
The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) is a state agency that provides a range of supports and services to the 31 local authorities. “We support reform in the local government sector and operate as a shared repository of best practice providing research and specialist expertise to the sector,” says Paul Dunne, LGMA Chief Executive.
Working in partnership with city and county councils and their staff, The LGMA provides advisory and management services to local authorities to help them in carrying out their activities. Broadly, the LGMA provides services in five main areas:
The Programme Management Division provides advice on the business needs of the local government sector and works to build sectoral approaches to meet those needs, including through the development of shared services. Examples of successes include the MyPay system in use across the local government sector, the Building Control Management System and the establishment of Climate Adaptation Regional Offices.
The Industrial Relations and Human Resources Division provides specific services including guidance, advice and support to local authorities. “We also act on behalf of the sector in national negotiations,” adds Dunne.
The Research and Innovation Division is charged with investigating future sectoral needs and developing strategy and policy for the sector. The Division is also responsible for communicating the achievements and promoting the work of the local authority sector.
Libraries Development is the national advisor and development agency for public libraries in Ireland, providing advice and assistance to library authorities throughout the country.
And finally, the Research and Architecture team develops, supports and maintains several systems in use across the local government sector, including, the Register of Electors; the data gathering and processing system, LGReturns; and, other shared digital services such as the travel and subsistence claims system.
In addition, the LGMA also supports local authorities in the areas of finance and procurement, for example managing national IT contracts and enterprise agreements for the sector.
The LGMA additionally provides support to the County and City Management Association (CCMA), a representative body for local authority chief executives.
“The LGMA remit is entirely focused on the local government sector,” says Dunne, “It’s a crucial sector for all of society; local authorities provide a wide range of services that affect the daily life of everyone in their communities, and we help them to do that in the best and most efficient way possible.”
The LGMA have a range of projects on-going at any time. Right now, housing is a major focus for the local authority sector and the LGMA are supporting delivery in that area, through engagement with relevant Government departments and other stakeholders, conducting research and gathering data to guide on best practice approaches. “We are also about to go to tender on a major new housing system that will be used by the entire local government sector,” says Dunne.
The LGMA have just developed a new Local Authorities People Strategy, which sets out a roadmap for the management of human resources in the sector. Dunne and his team hope that this will ensure a motivated and committed local authority workforce equipped to provide optimum standards of service delivery.
“We have been working on a new E-Planning system, which will allow for the submission of planning applications and appeals through an online portal. A great deal of work has gone into that project, so it’s great to see it about to move to pilot phase,” says Dunne.
Some other examples of emerging projects include the development of a catalogue of the services carried out by local authorities; research and new policies in the area of cyber security; and, a new E-invoicing project to support local authorities in adhering to their obligations under the new EU Directive coming in to force this year.
The recently launched Public Libraries Strategy, ‘Our Public Libraries 2022 - Inspiring, Connecting and Empowering Communities’ is a joint initiative of the Department of Rural and Community Development and the LGMA. The strategy aims to increase library membership significantly and support the rollout of open access and fine-free lending.
That is just a flavour of the activities the LGMA are involved in, the span of what they do is remarkably broad and they are involved in a huge range of areas.
Foremost in Dunne’s mind is recognition of the local authorities. “I think it is important to highlight just how much local authorities contribute to public services in Ireland,” emphasises Dunne, “Whether it’s housing, economic and enterprise support, roads, traffic, planning, fire services, environment services, recreation and amenities, and community development initiatives, our citizens engage with the services, infrastructure and policy programmes delivered by councils on a daily basis.”
He goes on to add, “Sometimes that work and the responsibilities local authorities have can be taken for granted, simply because they do such a good and consistent job.”
Dunne is cognisant of the excellent work going on right around the country in local authorities, and is eager that council staff and others know that the LGMA is here to support them in doing that work, however they can.