Service reviews: what they mean for local government

This is the first of our articles on service reviews within local government. We hope that they inspire and help councils with their reviews to ensure the services they provide are relevant to their communities and financially sustainable in the long term.

Service reviews mean different things to different organisations. In local government, a common objective is to ensure ‘value for money’ for their ratepayers in terms of both the effectiveness of the services in meeting community needs and the efficient delivery of those services. The reviews help to identify the mix of services and funding arrangements that best meet the community’s needs.

Service reviews do not focus entirely on improving the financial position of councils. Emphasis can also be placed on improving the quality of services. The process is a useful vehicle for developing an organisational culture that supports innovation and continuous improvement. Other possible reasons for undertaking a formal service review include the desire to:

  • Respond to changing community priorities and needs
  • Align the services with the council’s vision
  • Review and optimise service levels
  • Build staff capacity and skills
  • Help in determining the role of local government and its core business
  • Define statutory and non-statutory services, and assess need for the non-statutory services
  • Consider alternative modes of service delivery
  • Consider the potential for divestment of services
  • Identify new business opportunities
  • Partner with other councils or service providers

A service review can take a ‘whole of council’ approach or just cover one department, service or strategic focus area. It can address internal services such as HR, finance and IT or external services such as waste collection, childcare services and asset maintenance.

Key benefits of service reviews include:

  • Alignment of council’s plans with community needs
  • A more engaged community
  • Provision of higher quality services
  • Cost savings and income generation
  • Increased efficiency of limited resources
  • Increased capacity of staff to respond to a changing environment
  • Staff working cooperatively across departments
  • Improved understanding future community needs.

The SmartGov Team