High Performance Expectations of CouncilDiane Calvert
Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is currently promoting the upcoming nationwide local body elections. Their website links to a good summary view of the role of an elected member (Mayor and Councillor). It describes the role of a Councillor as falling into two main categories; being a member of the governing body of the council; and being an elected representative of the community.
Last year LGNZ conducted a nationwide survey on the public and business views of local government. The results indicated “The public want stronger performance, particularly in governance, managing finances, making good spending decisions and delivering value for money”. Local public commentary on social and other media forms also suggest that Wellington residents and ratepayers are currently far from happy with Council’s performance.
I decided to stand for Wellington City Council this year, because I believe our elected members need to demonstrate a higher level of governance ability and more effective community representation. My local community and I have personally experienced lately the impact of inconsistent performance in community engagement and Council decision making around issues such as cycleways and medium density housing. From what I see in other areas, our experiences are not unique and indicates a Council culture, that discourages transparency and accountability and one that has become more ingrained over the years.
So it seems my expectations on the role of Councillor align to the “official” definition and public expectation of the role. But what is an acceptable standard? Is my standard higher, the same or less than my neighbour? What common assessment do we have to measure performance of our elected Mayor and Councillors? I looked for insight to what an acceptable standard should be. There was little or no guidance by the central government lead agency that monitors Councils – Department of Internal Affairs. Wellington City Council publishes a quarterly performance report but its focus is on financial compliance with no visibility over intended strategic progress.
However there is hope on the horizon for a nationwide qualitative assessment. I read with interest that LGNZ is launching an excellence programme which provides an assessment tool across four common areas (Governance, leadership & strategy; Financial decision making and transparency; Service delivery and asset management; Communicating and engaging). LGNZ says “The Local Government Excellence Programme will drive a culture of excellence and continuous improvement in council and sector performance”.
LGNZ is calling for its Council members to sign up to its excellence programme by the end of this month (June). Let’s hope Wellington City Council do so, as it will be a long journey and a different mind-set and culture required. I for one will support and champion this initiative along with a regular ‘pulse’ check – a clear and transparent report card on the Council’s real organisational performance.