Promoting Better Practice Reviews of individual councils aim to assist in strengthening the local government sector by assessing performance and promoting continuous improvement. The reviews are designed to act as a ‘health check’ which examines the extent to which there are appropriate strategies, policies, systems and procedures in place in the following areas:
The reviews are normally conducted by a team from the Office of Local Government, and the resulting report reflects the findings of the review at the time of the review: it is a ‘snapshot’ in time. A risk-based approach is taken, targeting resources to areas identified as core matters for examination, and those matters considered to be important having regard to the local circumstances of an individual council. In other words, a review does not examine every aspect of a council’s operations.
Reviews are also informed by the Principles for Service Reviews proposed by the Local Government Independent Review Panel.
The review process
This involves the completion of a comprehensive self-assessment checklist by the council and the examination of a range of documents by the review team. The review team examines local circumstances in order to understand the pressures on the council and how the council has sought to manage within that environment. A visit to council allows the team to ‘reality check’ what it has found in the material received from the council. The visit is focused on conversations with councillors and council staff on key strategic areas that contribute to the council’s overall health and sustainability. Councillors are provided with the opportunity to complete a survey and/or meet with the review team. After the visit, the review team prepares a report in collaboration with the council. All review reports are published once the report is tabled by the council. The review report contains an action plan to guide the council in implementing the recommendations of the review.
The council and the Office monitor progress as agreed.
Principles for Service Reviews
The Office of Local Government continuously improves the promoting better practice review process. The review process has been improved to assist councils to undertake a self-assessment in relation to key areas contributing to the council’s strategic capacity and sustainability. With this in mind, reviewers will be also be mindful of the Principles for Service Reviews proposed by the Local Government Review Panel in carrying out reviews:
- A council must achieve continuous improvement in the provision of services and seek to ensure that its services are equivalent to ‘best on offer’ in its region.
- All services provided by a council must meet defined performance outcomes and quality and cost standards developed by the council in consultation with local communities and key stakeholders.
- As part of service reviews, a council must explore the potential for partnerships with adjoining or nearby councils, as well as other public or private service providers.
- Service reviews must take into account the importance of maintaining and where possible increasing local employment opportunities.
- Each service provided by a council must be accessible to those members of the community for whom the service is intended.
- A council must report regularly to its community on its achievements to these principles.
Councils are also encouraged to consider these principles in their quest for continuous improvement.
Tools and Checklists
To support a culture of self-assessment and continuous improvement, a range of tools and checklists is available to councils to support their self-assessment of their operations and performance. These tools complement Practice Notes, Guidelines and other resources available from the Office of Local Government and other organisations.
- Promoting better practice self-assessment checklist
- Key documents checklist
- Collaborative arrangements checklist
- Integrated Planning & Reporting checklist
- Annual Report checklist
- Councillor survey – used to get councillor feedback about council processes and performance
Promoting Better Practice review reports
The Office of Local Government is committed to conducting a Promoting Better Practice review in all councils in NSW. Following each review, a report is prepared which provides a snapshot in time of the performance of that council in relation to key functions and responsibilities.