Local Government Reform Program Ė Promoting Better Practice Review
What is Local Government Reform – Promoting Better Practice?
Local Government Reform - Promoting Better Practice is a review process that is part of the local government reform program. The program aims to improve the viability and sustainability of councils. The process represents the second stage of the NSW Governmentís program of reform for local government.
ObjectivesReviews can act as a Ďhealth checkí, giving the council confidence about what is being done and helping to focus attention on key priorities. The process has a number of objectives:
How does the division select councils for review?Councils will be selected for review on the basis of, but not limited to, the following:
Review program processA review involves a review team closely evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of key aspects of council operations and giving feedback. This will involve assessing councilís overall strategic direction, checking compliance, examining appropriate practices and ensuring that council has frameworks in place to monitor its performance. A review may focus on specific areas of council activities that have been identified as a result of an analysis of councilís information and data. Councils are asked to complete a self-assessment of their strategic management and operating practices. An analysis of this will assist the review team to appropriately focus the review. The review team conducts a reality check as part of the on site review. It tests what the review team read, see or hear. The division endeavours to give the council about 4 weeks in which to respond to the self-assessment materials. The on site stage generally occurs a further 3 to 4 weeks after councilís response is received. The council receives a report on the issues identified during the review. The report will include what is working well at council as well as challenges for improvement. The Division of Local Government monitors councilís actions in response to the report to ensure that the review recommendations are acted upon.
The Five Stages of a Review
PREPARING:This involves council completing a strategic self-assessment and practice checklists, which we call the program tools. The strategic self-assessment examines the adequacy of councilís strategic focus. It asks council to explore what it is trying to achieve; how it delivers its priorities; what it has or has not achieved; and what it has learned and plans to do next. The council practice checklist is a series of 5 checklists that relate to councilís assessment of its ability to meet minimum practice standards. The checklist covers the areas of Governance; Regulatory Functions; Asset and Financial Management; Community and Consultation; and Workforce Relations. Reviewers also request a range of key council documents including plans, policies, procedures and reports across a range of council operational areas. Click here to go to the program tools
ASSESSING:The review team analyses performance data and local circumstances. The types of information considered by the reviewers before going on site includes; the demographics of the council area, community and social issues, development constraints or pressures, the types of activities council is involved in, councilís organisational structure and staffing, management plans and processes, comparative information, councilís financial position, seriousness and number of complaints and the results of councilís self-assessment. Reviewers also consult other relevant stakeholders including the NSW Ombudsman, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the NSW Department of Planning and other relevant NSW Government Agencies and community stakeholders. The information the reviewers collect and analyse before going on site will help decide where the reviewers spend their time while on site. The focus of the review may vary according to the nature of the councilís work and local circumstances. A good understanding of local circumstances may help to explain why a council manages its work in a particular way.
CHECKING:Fieldwork provides the opportunity to gather valuable evidence to support the divisionís analysis of councilís performance. Discussing these aspects with staff gives the reviewers an opportunity to ďtestĒ what they are seeing or finding. During the review the reviewers conduct a range of activities such as: meeting with senior officers, talking with individual staff and councillors, observing council or committee meetings, following or auditing council processes and reviewing policies and procedures
ANALYSING:As the review progresses, the review team develops and tests hypotheses or preliminary conclusions. Conclusions will be based on evidence Ė either what the reviewers have seen, discussed or drawn conclusions from data or documents. Conclusions will be based on more than someone simply telling the reviewer this is so Ė they should be supported by data, documents or other reports. Conclusions will be based on an assessment of the scale of the problem (or better practice) Ė how prevalent is the problem? How great is the risk to the organisation? Giving examples assists to understand this. Our conclusions must be balanced, for example, giving a sense of the risk and scale of the practice, good or bad. It may be across the organisation or just isolated to one department or section, but could be a high risk concern for the council. Conclusions will be based on themes that cut across individual functions in the organisation Ė while there may be issues that are specific to individual areas of council and these may need to be commented upon, the review team will be looking for themes that are common to a number of areas of council.
REPORTING:The reviewers will conduct an exit interview with councilís General Manager and/or Mayor at the end of the on site visit. This should inform council of the emerging conclusions and areas likely to be the subject of comment in the report. A draft report is prepared following the on site review and this is sent to council as a confidential draft for comment. Councilís comments are considered and the final report is prepared and issued to council, the Minister and the Chief Executive, Local Government. Council must table the report so that it becomes a public document. Click here to go to review reports Council will be requested to draw up an action plan in response to the recommendations in the final report. The division monitors the implementation of the action plan. Click here to download a two page handout on the program.
Following completion, the division's review reports are tabled by the councils concerned and thereby become public documents. Below is a table of completed council reviews, with links to completed reports that have been tabled by the reviewed councils. This table will be updated periodically as reviews are completed and final reports are tabled by councils.
Mail: Locked Bag 3015 Nowra NSW 2541