Services benchmarking welcomed

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 07/02/2013

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A move to measure the performance of core council services has been welcomed by Nelson watchdog groups.

However, one group is questioning whether the Government proposal will have any real impact.

The public is being invited to have a say on whether to benchmark council performance by the services provided.

The proposed performance measures will cover services that are essential to people's everyday lives and the local economy and will gauge things like whether water is safe to drink.

Others are about the safety of local roads, how well stormwater drainage and sewerage systems are functioning, and what level of protection major flood protection works provide.

Policy director at the Department of Internal Affairs Kathy Perreau said having standard measures that applied across different councils would make it easier for people to compare council services.

Grey Power Nelson president Neville Male said there was a strong view among members that councils ought to be getting back to focusing on core business, and his group would "strongly support" any way that measured council performance.

Grey Power Nelson local government spokesman Errol Millar said measuring performance was important because at the moment "nothing was binding".

Nelson Residents Association spokesman Kerry Neal said a system to benchmark councils' performance "would not do any harm", but whether it would be beneficial remained to be seen.

"Until there's demand to start reducing expenditure, councils will likely just keep track of each other and keep ratcheting up costs."

Mr Neal said benchmarking might also be difficult because each zone had its own peculiar problems.

Places such as Palmerston North, which was largely flat, would have different demands to places like Wellington or Nelson, which were hilly, and therefore had higher costs associated with providing core services.

Ms Perreau said the department hoped the measures would provide information that made it easier for members of the public to find out about their council's management of these important services.

"The aim is to provide information that will help people participate in their council's decision-making processes. If members of the public are to have an effective voice in council decisions, they need good information about council-provided services," Ms Perreau said.

She said the measures would not dictate how councils should deliver services or set standards or targets but would provide an agreed way to measure the level of service provided by each council.

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Councils would continue to use a range of other reporting measures.

Submissions can be made through the Local Government Policy section on the Department of Internal Affairs' website and close on February 28

- The Nelson Mail

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