Local Government's Magic Misleading List

In Local Government Land there’s a magic List that the Minister, Local Government Victoria bureaucrats and CEOs quote extensively to pretend that Councils are performing effectively and efficiently.


And the numbers on this magic List are displayed via the ‘Know Your Council’ website, so ratepayers and residents can compare their Council’s performance against other Councils.


The name of the magic list is: The Local Government Reporting Framework (LGRF.)


And the most magical quality of this List is that it automatically hides CEOs, council staff, Ministers and bureaucrats from ratepayer scrutiny.


Until now.


Because I’m exposing the Magic List and its 58 numbers as trickery.

The List is meaningless.

Many of the measurements are meaningless.

And a few, significant numbers, are also insulting to ratepayers.


I’ll start with the insulting ones. There are three items of the 58 that refer to community ‘satisfaction’

  1. Satisfaction with council services

  2. Satisfaction with community consultation and engagement

  3. Satisfaction with council decisions


These measurements are insulting for two reasons. The first is that my council pays a company $25,000 every year to survey 800 residents instead of asking us themselves.


The second is that the result fails to reflect resident satisfaction with Council performance.


In the near-20 years I’ve been resident in Maribyrnong here are a few of the lowlights that have prompted headlines in the local papers, articles in major mastheads, topics on talk-back radio, gatherings on neighbourhood streets and protests at Council meetings:

  • Paid parking meters in the local shopping strip

  • Double-digit increases in rates

  • Council out-sourcing home services to the elderly

  • Closing the local pool

  • Giving land to a large retailer for less than market value

  • Giving parkland to a large private soccer club

  • Paying $237,000 for a sign on the front of Footscray Park

  • Renewing the CEO’s contract for 5 years, with a 5-digit payrise


Throughout the years, despite the above issues and their corresponding peaks in community outrage, there’s been barely a blip in the Council’s $25,000 official community satisfaction rating.


Maribyrnong City Council has a long-term average satisfaction score of 6.5/10.


The satisfaction rating never changes because the questions are the same every year. And the same for every Council. Because it’s a ‘generic’ survey for the Government, measuring what the Government wants.


My Council has refused several times point-blank to end the contract for the survey, because the CEO and the Mayor say it’s required under the Local Government Reporting Framework.


Wrong.


The $25,000 survey is not required under the LGRF: the government only wants a satisfaction rating. (And obviously doesn’t care if the rating accurately reflects resident sentiment.)


Back to the list. Another three of the 58 items on the list relate to rates.

  1. rates compared to underlying adjusted revenue

  2. rates compared to property values

  3. average rate per property assessment.


Yep. When my neighbours and friends rave about rates these are the all-important topics.


On to rubbish and roads. Theoretically, Councils’ main purposes are local roads and local rubbish - so what does the Magic List measure that’s useful for residents?


Five out of the 58 measurements are about rubbish. (So more important than rates then?) Here’s the list.

  1. Kerbside bin collection requests

  2. Kerbside collection bins missed

  3. Cost of kerbside garbage bin collection service

  4. Cost of kerbside recyclables collection service

  5. Kerbside collection waste diverted from landfill

The whole measurement of rubbish collection is a red herring. It’s outsourced. So it doesn’t measure Council performance at all. It measures how well the contractor is performing. And Maribyrnong City Council decides contracts in secret.

So what’s the point of measuring performance of a contractor when residents have no idea what the contractor is being paid?

With roads, this is the key data for the LGRF:

  1. Sealed local road requests

  2. Sealed local roads maintained to condition standards

  3. Cost of sealed local road reconstruction

  4. Cost of sealed local road resealing and

  5. Satisfaction with sealed local roads.

Again, most of this is outsourced in my Council so it’s measuring the performance of contractors.

Apart from providing jobs for public servants and consultants, there’s no point collecting this information. It certainly has no value for the ratepayers who have to pay for it.


If the Government wants to keep maintaining the Local Government Reporting Framework and expecting ratepayers to foot the bill - here’s some of the numbers that would provide valuable information for ratepayers and the Local Government Minister:

  • Number of rates complaints per council per year

  • Number of valuation complaints per council per year

  • Number of valuation complaints grouped by Contractor

  • Number of properties re-valued per Council

  • Number of properties re-valued grouped by contractor

  • Average number of days to finalise valuation complaint per Council

  • Average number of days to finalise valuation grouped by Contractor

  • Cents in the dollar for residential rate per council

  • Cents in the dollar for commercial rate per council

  • Municipal charge per council

  • Waste charge per council

None of this basic information is available from one source. And it should be.

So next time a CEO, or the Minister, or Councillor or anyone else quotes the Local Government Reporting Framework tell them the Local Government Reporting Framework is irrelevant to ratepayers.

And persist with your question or issue.




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