Big Picture View of Local Government Reform and Performance Just Got Clearer

An unprecedented meeting of New South Wales, Western Australian and New Zealand councils is being held in Sydney tomorrow that will inform and significantly impact the continuing process of NSW local government reform.

Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW is convening an international results forum on Thursday, April 27 for its Australasian LG Performance Excellence Program that now has tracked the performance of a very broad collective of councils who spend a combined $11 billion dollars on service provision and administration, across a total population of 7.5 million people in the two countries.

After five years of planning with four years of continuous tracking, the program now has 134 councils using the program’s results to take responsibility for their own success with an overarching commitment to raise the quality of local government services. 

LG Professionals, NSW CEO Annalisa Haskell says, while definitely not all bad news, the analytical results to date have uncovered issues that mean they are now looking at things they didn’t even know were needing attention.
“At Thursday’s forum we will have the benefit of taking the analysis further as a group particularly regarding the future workforce capacity for NSW - one of the critical issues that will generate vital discussion,” Ms Haskell said.

"Our program is a very accurate measure of individual council performance with the built-in capability to not only compare councils of similar size or type, but to look deeper into many more relevant dimensions such as the type and nature of services provided, geodemographic descriptors and workforce profile.

“Whilst it’s often easier to make judgements about a council’s overall performance using, for example, key financial metrics such as revenue, operating ratios, or liquidity, we believe these cannot be reviewed without equally understanding the nature and shape of the individual council service profile – that is, what types and levels of services are provided, and how are they delivered into their community.” 

Ms Haskell says the program recognises the criticality of understanding the services that councils provide in contextualising their performance. 

“It would be for example, like expecting hairdressing businesses of the same size to have a similar financial result when there might be differences in their customers, location, staffing and services.”

“It is the make-up of the council in terms of its range of services and service level that is important when reviewing overall performance. These things fundamentally affect the financials and resourcing which is often the major cost in councils. 

“Our councils now have a much fuller understanding of what is driving cost variability in their core services because, for the first time, we have been able to unpack what those drivers are and provide an understanding of how controllable they are so they can decide what to do about it,” Ms Haskell said.

For Good Measure and Management

The initial impetus for the trail-blazing reporting program came from LG Professionals, NSW’s CEO Annalisa Haskell who has extensive experience in the commercial sector as well as government, and  believes that only effective, lasting improvements can come from within the councils themselves.

And, in NSW, the government push for local government reform gave the already established program an even greater opportunity for positive influence on the future running of our cities.

“Imposing change never works, it has to be something driven from a self-desire to improve otherwise it won’t be sustainable. LG Professionals, NSW has been a driving force working collaboratively with the sector, key stakeholders and the NSW Government since the kick off of the reform process.“

The Australasian LG Performance Excellence Program is delivered in collaboration with PwC using very sophisticated analytics uniquely designed for LG Professionals, NSW. 

PwC Partner Stuart Shinfield says he is impressed by the commitment of the participating councils because in his experience, elsewhere in government, as well as in the commercial sector, this type of detailed study only usually only happens when someone has been given a directive.

"The heroes of this program are the leaders of the councils involved," Mr Shinfield said. "No-one compelled them to drill-down like this - they took the lead and said 'Let's move forward together’.”

Ms Haskell also praised the council leaders for diving deep and being prepared to find things that take courage to confront.

“The results have been incredible” Ms Haskell said. “Working in this way with our council partners has broadened our perspective of what’s possible and we are excited by the really new thinking that has emerged as a result of this program – it motivates us also to continue to try new things to assist local government achieve new heights of performance.”

The Australasian LG Performance Excellence Program Forum will be held in collaboration with PwC  in their new offices at Barangaroo, Sydney on April 27.

About LG Professionals Australia, NSW
Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW is the leading association representing all professionals in NSW local government and is part of a national federation of associations. The organisation is committed to maintaining high professional and ethical standards and ensuring that its members are at the forefront of leadership, change and innovation.
Joel Schubert [email protected]