The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) has released a new resource for councils which provides expert guidance on how to comprehensively assess the services they provide.
The new reference guide, titled Service Delivery Review: A How to Manual for Local Government, includes advice, toolkits and templates to assist elected representatives and council staff including department managers, chief executive officers, general managers and community engagement staff.
The ACELG developed the manual in response to demands from the local government sector for practical guidance in undertaking service delivery reviews that are in line with present local governance practice and processes.
ACELG Director Associate Professor Roberta Ryan, who co-authored the manual, said that this is a “significant issue” for councils as their service provision as “transformed significantly over recent decades”.
Amid those changes, Professor Ryan said community expectations of local government have increased while other levels of government have devolved various functions.
Many councils are now facing significantly higher service demands because of the increased incidence of cost shifting in the form of transferring delivery obligations, a practice that is routinely condemned by local government peak bodies as a “financially irresponsible practice”.
The ACELG manual’s second co-author and Director of Sector Engagement and Teaching with the UTS Centre for Local Government, Dr Tim Robinson, said the guide had been written with a “certain amount of ‘future proofing’ in mind”.
He said local government service delivery reviews were mandatory in some jurisdictions or driven by local or sector reform processes.
Regional councils are particularly vulnerable to potential deficiencies in being able to meet meet community demands and expectations for better services.
The general manager of Port Stephens Council in New South Wales, Peter Gesling, launched the new guide and said councils needed to employ an “innovative approach” to service delivery reviews.
Executive staff also needed to find alternate ways to improve their services.
Mr Gesling said his council has had to think “outside the square” about the services it delivers, and used a wide variety of community consultation methods and surveys to best determine needs.
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