Local Government Act – 6 Challenges for Councils
The Local Government Act requires that councils maintain systems of planning and reporting to meet its legal requirements. For this to occur, officers, managers, executive teams, auditors, committees, and Council must align. Below are some of the key challenges being faced by the sector to meet the requirements of the Local Government Act.
1. Preparing to Report on Plans and KPIs
In order to meet its legal obligations, an LG should provide an update of its Council plan as well as prepare, certify, and audit its performance as per the requirements of the Local Government Act.
LGs provide regular reports that contain the results of their KPIs relating to services and financials, and their sustainability. Additionally, an LG also reports on results from both current and past years with comments that explain any shifts in results.
Before their submission, reports and statements must be certified. This requires:
- Firstly, that a full set of documents for KPI results are available
- Secondly, that staff provide comments for any shift in expected results
- Thirdly, that KPI result data meets legal requirements with evidence that shows the workings of result
- Next, that all relevant parties have reviewed the statements and recommended their adoption by Council
- Finally, that Council adopt the statement and provide authory to its members to certify it once audit clearance has been obtained
Before certification, statements must undergo an audit. For this to occur:
- The audit committee and Council confirm the requirements of the audit with the regulator
- An LG must confirm that all KPIs and their related results meet the legal requirements as per the Local Government Act
- That a full set of documents for KPI results are available
- Result show working as well as source data
- LGs must explain shifts in expected results
- Relevant managers have reviewed the statements
- Relevant parties who may need to provide furher commentry are aware of the audit
skefto supports the storing of results against KPIs with relevant comments to explain the data for a given period, as well as the process used to arrive at each result. Further, skefto provides a schedule for reviews allowing for analysis of result data for accuracy and quality. Above all this process ensures that statements are easily audited, certified, and finally able to be reported upon.
2. Effectively Plan and Measure
Councils produce plans that reflects its vision and captures the identity of its people and places. A Council plan should contain a vision, and lists the goals, outcomes and, actions required to achieve its vision. Further, it should also contain KPIs required to monitor and report on the progress of plans and services.
Before Council adopts a new plan, or reviews and modifies an existing plan, it must publish the plan for public feedback. Along with a Council Plan, the Local Government Act may require Councils to produce a range of other plans such as an Asset Plan, a Financial Plan, or a Workforce Plan to name a few.
High Quality KPIs
LGs should develop high quality and relevant KPIs that in order to monitor the progress of its plans, and performance of its services. A KPI should:
- Firstly, be relevant to what is measures
- Secondly, supports easy measure, observation, and verification
- Thirdly, provides a balanced view when balanced with with other KPIs
- Fourthly, supports improvement, is instructive, and easily understood
- Next, maintains a low cost of data collection and avoid delays in reporting
- Importantly, provides consistency for comparisson with other councils over time
- Finally, considers the cost as well as the benefit to collect and report on data
skefto allows LGs to develop Council plans which provide clear action and can be easily measured. It provides LGs a simple way to monitor and report on KPIs and actions that support the outcomes of its community. Further, skefto allows for the review of data which is important for key decision making. Above all skefto allows Councils to measure KPIs again targets to understand whether results are positive or negative.
3. Clearly Define Roles
To effectively design and deliver its strategy, LGs should define their role in community development. As per the Local Government Act, officers should collate and prepare results for reporting, are ensure they are accurate and complete. This follows area managers reviewing, assuring, and where required providing comments on results. Reporting officers are then responsible to collate and provide regular updates to senior managers, the audit committee, and Council as well as draft an audit performance statement.
The executive team is then required to review the reports and comments for shifts in expected results, assurance documents, the draft statement, and finally provide their recommendation to an accounting officer and the CEO. Prior to a statement being shared with Council the accounting officer, CEO, and audit committee review the reports, variations, materiality levels, draft statement, assurance documents, and recommendations provided by the executive team. Following this, the statement is ready to be certified and along with the annual report is recommended for adoption by Council.
Finally, Council should review the statements and recommendations and have its members provide certification following completion of an audit. At this stage, Council is able to adopt and submit the statement as part of its annual reporting under the LG Act.
skefto allows for the assignment of key roles in relation to reporting of plans and KPIs. As a result, staff and Council members included in the planning process obtain increased transparency, forming part of a team based approach for plan delivery.
skefto Helps Councils with Strategic Planning and Performance Reporting
4. Maintain Policy, Procedure, and Protocol
By maintaining quality policies and procedures, LGs are able to provide quality information to Council, staff, and the public with respect to the status of its plans and performance of its services. As Council does not involve itself in day to day activities, it relies on its officers to provide assurance about the information reported to them and in turn to the public.
Policies may cover:
- Council objectives to reporting on its KPIs based on requirements from the Local Government Act
- Council members included in the reporting process
- The protocols for the distribution of reports and statements by Council
- Prescribed KPIs for services, financials, and sustainable capacity and how they relate to Council objectives
- The roles all and responsibility of officers, the audit committee, and Council
- Assurance, certification, and audit requirements allowing for statement adoption
Procedures may cover:
- Source of KPI data and contact details of person(s) for data provided by third parties
- Officers that are responsible to collate and verify the data collected
- The frequency of data collection and the lead time to collect the data
- Controls that may exist with respect to how KPI data collection verification ensuring it is complete and accurate
- How KPI data is collated, certified, audited and reported upon
skefto allows LGs to be more effective and structured delivery of strategy and reporting, achieved by automating key processes, just in time alerting, and simple and smart workflow.
5. Deliver Community Benefits
A well tuned approach to planning provides LGs a platform for improved decision making and improvement. The benefits to communities include access to quality information on services, outcomes, and performance. Whilst regulators require assurance that obligations are met and sustainable practices are in place.
skefto allows LGs to showcase the impact of its plan on community outcomes as well as the performance of internal council operations to meet community expectations. Most importantly, KPIs are able are aligned with services, finances, and Council’s sustainable capacity.
6. Align Staff Action with Council Plans
To meet the requirements of Local Government Act, Councils must have systems in place that allow them to achieve their goals and KPI targets. No doubt for the best result, the outcomes of an LG and its staff (i.e. people and teams) must align so that each and every person plays a vital role in achieving Council goals.
For a Council to achieve its goals and meet its KPI targets it is vital that managers engage, develop and support their staff as well as include them in planning. Managers should also work with staff to define skills, supports, experience, and resources they may require to succeed in their role. It’s about working with staff to set them on a pathway for success based on their own unique abilities.
Managers should also provide regular feedback to staff about their performance. This includes providing positive feedback in instances where staff achievements have been met or passed expectation. As well as setting up a pathway for success through a learning based approach where staff output has not met the expected standards.
skefto allows LGs to break down top level plans into lower level plans. As a result, links across plans create alignment from top to bottom as well horizontally (i.e. across different teams or business areas). Further, skefto supports a simple structure for reporting and review that allows for praise of positive results and suitable management of issues.
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Some useful resources
Some useful resources to better understand the Local Government Act
An Act to provide for a system of LGs in Western Australia, to amend the LG Act 1960 2 and for related purposes.
An Act to provide for a systems of LG in Queensland
An Act to provide for a system of LG in New South Wales
An Act to provide for a system of LG in South Australia
An Act to provide for a system of LG in Tasmania
An Act to provide for a system of LG in Northern Territory