Mr. John Gormley, TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has welcomed the third report from the Local Government Management Services Board on Local Authority Service Indicators.
The report details the performance of local authorities in 2006 in relation to 42 indicators of service and 160 sub-indicators covering a wide range of local authority activities - e.g. housing, water, planning, fire service, environment and finance.
In welcoming the Report, Minister Gormley pointed out that - "Local government plays a very important role in our everyday lives, so it is essential that services are delivered to the highest standard possible".
He also praised the work of local authorities and their ongoing commitment and drive to ensuring quality customer service. "Progress made by local authorities in recent years is evident by the information contained within the Service Indicator Report. Nonetheless, local authorities must strive to do better to improve services to the public" - he stated.
The Minister hopes that all local authorities will follow the examples of those local authorities which are leading the way. "County Monaghan has 5 times more childrens' playgrounds than average. However, on other issues, local authorities which are lagging behind are encouraged to improve service delivery at all times" - the Minister added. For example, while local authority dwellings are - on average - re-let after less than 4 weeks, some local authorities have average delays of up to 20 weeks.
According to the Report, there is a wide variation in recycling performance for household waste - varying from 6% to 56% between different counties and the Minister called for - "an improved performance for those counties with low recycling rates.
"I am also particularly keen that all planning authorities intensify their efforts in the area of planning enforcement. I am determined that all local authorities take their responsibilities seriously in this regard and my Department will continue to do everything possible to support their efforts."
Minister Gormley continued - "I am committed to the reform of local government and the issue of customer service will be to the forefront of the reform programme outlined in the Programme for Government."
The Minister acknowledged that much effort had been made in recent years by local authorities in focusing on service delivery and it is his intention that the reform programme will build on that work. He went on to say that local government had taken the lead in the public service on reporting on service delivery in such a detailed way for its sector and welcomed the comparison in the report between performance in 2004, 2005 and 2006 - showing that, with a few exceptions, the overall trend was moving in the right direction.
Commenting on the findings, the Minister noted the improvement in a number of indicators compared to 2005, in particular -
* An increase in the use of Library Services - both in the number of registered members and a significant increased availability and usage of internet, now available in virtually all libraries.
* Considerable usage of Pre-planning consultations that are now a key feature of the service provided by planning sections - with a total of 28,113 meetings facilitated nationally.
* With regard to Litter, comparison between 2005 and 2006 show that total percentage of litter-free areas has increased from 6.1% to 6.8% - and, in the case of slightly polluted areas, it has increased from 49.5% to 53.6%. Areas significantly polluted and areas grossly polluted has fallen from 8.5% to 7.4 % and 1.5% to 0.6%, respectively.
The Minister stressed however, that this was an area - "where I am determined to see local authorities ramp up their activity, with a particular focus on enforcement and educate people not to litter".
* Local Authority Housing Stock has increased to 115,386 dwellings - an increase of nearly 1,700 since 2005 and time taken to inform applicants has generally gone down nationally.
The average time to inform applicants of shared ownership has decreased from 11 days in 2005, to 8.7 days in 2006 - in the case of housing loans, it has gone down from an average of 13 days to 8 days in the same period.
The Minister noted that - "while a variety of factors can influence the relative performance of local authorities, the real challenge for each local authority is to put in place a strategy to ensure that its own performance is improved on an ongoing basis".
Minister Gormley asked local authorities to provide feedback and analysis of results to elected members, so that reasons are identified in the case of both good and poor performance. He also urged members of the public to read the report and check out how their council is performing. The report itself provides a wide picture of many local authorities activities.
The Minister also announced that, later in the year, he will make available the outcome of the on-going review of the service indicator initiative, which is being undertaken by the Local Authority Customer Service Group, who drew up the original indicators. Any new indicators or amendments to existing indicators will be in place prior to January 2008 to enable reporting on service delivery.
The Minister acknowledged the important role played by the Independent Assessment Panel, chaired by Professor Philip Bourke - the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, UCD - in quality assuring the entire service indicators' process. The other members of the Panel are Ms Mary O'Dea, Consumer Director, Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority and Mr Arthur Coldrick, Chairman of the Performance Verification Group for the Local Government Sector under the National Partnership agreements.