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What is meant by service levels?

What is meant by ‘service levels’?

One of the most important discussions a council will have with its community during the planning process is in regard to expected levels of service. Many councils find it challenging to meet the increasing expectations of their community – particularly in rural areas where changing demographics may bring different expectations regarding service standards.

Although it may be difficult to gain consensus on levels of service, it is helpful to hold these discussions with the community. What do people really expect in terms of rural roads or street cleaning or recreational facilities? Are they willing to meet the cost of increasing expectations? Can they identify priorities in service provision? Are there services which could be delivered more effectively or efficiently by the council? The Asset Management section contains further information on determining service levels specifically in relation to assets.

Ideally, the conversation with the community about levels of service should be treated as an ongoing one. However, it’s important to ensure it is incorporated as part of the community engagement that informs the development of the Community Strategic Plan and the Long-Term Financial Plan.

Levels of service are explained as “…defined service quality for an activity or service area (for example, the road network) against which service performance may be measured”. Levels of service are determined through community or customer consultation, and consider:

  • quality
  • quantity
  • safety
  • capacity
  • fitness for purpose
  • aesthetics
  • reliability
  • responsiveness
  • environmental acceptability
  • costs.

The impact of changes in demand over time on service levels should be regularly established and accounted for. This will provide a clear understanding of cost implications across the whole lifecycle of the service.


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