Local government planning and reporting on performance

January 2024: This guidance is designed to help councils provide appropriate and meaningful performance information in their accountability documents (for example, long-term plans and annual reports). Doing so helps communities and ratepayers better understand what councils are doing for them in the short and longer terms.


The guidance provides a range of individual examples of good practice, where different councils have done more than simply meet minimum statutory requirements.

This guidance is in three parts:

  • Part 1: A well-integrated long-term plan. This section focuses on how the long-term plan should tell a single overall integrated story. This is important because it helps ratepayers to understand what the council is aiming to deliver and achieve across its groups of activities, given the council’s broad operating environment, key strategies (such as the infrastructure strategy and financial strategy) and the council’s consultation with the community.
  • Part 2: Community consultation reflected in the long-term plan. This section focuses on how transparent the council has been with the outcomes of its community consultation processes. This is important because it helps communities to understand how their input has flowed into the council’s decisions about what it intends to achieve and its levels of service, which is then reflected in its performance reporting.
  • Part 3: Meaningful performance measures and reporting. This section focuses on councils presenting appropriate measures for assessing their service delivery and providing meaningful reporting on what has been achieved.

We focused on these three areas because they are important to effective accountability, giving the public a clear understanding of what councils seek to achieve and report on. In these areas, we saw examples of good practice that other councils could learn from.

Performance information in the long-term plan and annual reports

Councils are primarily accountable to their communities for decisions made and outcomes achieved through their long-term plans and annual reports.

Councils’ long-term plans set out what they intend to achieve for their communities. Long-term plans outline a council’s activities and how these activities fit together. They cover the activities that will be completed over the long-term plan’s 10-year period, why the council chose those activities, and the costs of those activities to the community.

Councils are also required to produce consultation documentsfor their long-term plans. The purpose of a consultation document is to provide an effective basis for public participation in a council’s decision-making processes about the content of its long-term plan.

A council’s annual reportshould give its community a clear understanding of the council’s achievements and results against its long-term plan. There should be a particular emphasis on comparing forecast financial and service performance for the past year.

What is required under the legislation?

The Local Government Act 2002 states that councils are accountable to their communities. The performance information in the long-term plan is an important part of how councils demonstrate their accountability.

The Local Government Act 2022 provides a framework for councils to decide what activities they will carry out and how they will carry them out. The framework requires councils to present information on community outcomes, groups of activities, and a statement of service provision and to clearly and logically link these together.

The statement of service provision must, for each group of activities, include a statement of the intended levels of service provision that specifies:

  • any performance measures and groups of activities specified by the Secretary for Local Government;1
  • the performance measures that the council considers will allow the community to assess the level of service for major aspects of groups of activities for which performance measures have not been specified;
  • the performance target(s) set by the council for each performance measure;
  • any intended changes to the level of service that was provided for in the year before the first year covered by the long-term plan and the reasons for the changes; and
  • the reason for any material change to the cost of a service.

Reporting standard and the annual report

There is an accounting standard, PBE FRS 48, that sets high-level requirements for public sector entities to report on their service performance in their annual report. Although PBE FRS 48 applies to only annual reports, councils should consider applying the requirements of PBE FRS 48 when preparing their long-term plans as these plans serve as the basis for how councils report on their performance in their annual reports.

PBE FRS 48 requires public organisations to present their service performance information in the context of why the organisation exists, what it intends to achieve in broad terms, and what was done during the reporting period to achieve its broader aims and objectives.

PBE FRS 48 sets out principles in relation to service performance information. In particular, it requires public organisations to apply certain qualitative characteristics and certain constraints.

The qualitative characteristics are:

  • relevance;
  • faithful representation;
  • understandability;
  • timeliness;
  • comparability; and
  • verifiability.

The constraints are:

  • materiality;
  • cost-benefit; and
  • balance between the qualitative characteristics.

About the examples in this guidance

We looked at more than 100 council long-term plans for 2021-2031 and annual reports for 2021/22 to identify examples of good practice.

Recognising the councils’ different sizes, roles, capacities, and obligations, we tried to identify examples of good practice from a range of councils as well as examples that we thought other councils could learn from, irrespective of these differences.

The examples in this guidance are what we consider to be good practice in performance reporting. We make no judgements on the actual performance of councils.

We excluded council-controlled organisations because they are more diverse and have different performance reporting obligations.

The examples in this guidance illustrate good practice of specific aspects of performance reporting. However, that doesn’t mean they meet good practice standards for accessibility. We didn’t assess these examples against web accessibility standards. Given that most accountability documents are read online, we recommend that preparers of long-term plans and annual reports consult the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines on how to ensure that their content meets accessibility requirements.

1: From 2014, councils were required to incorporate mandatory service performance measures in their long-term plans and report in the annual reports on the following groups of activities: water supply, sewerage and the treatment and disposal of sewage, stormwater drainage, flood protection and control works, and the provision of roads and footpaths.