International benchmarking

By John McIlroy *

The Best Value regime has placed a duty on Councils in the UK to compare their performance against other Councils. has taken this one step further by providing Council officers with the opportunity to compare against local authorities throughout the world. Guide to International Local Government is a 140 page report looking at international best practice in Local Government that is accompanied by an online workroom for further investigation. The countries chosen for the report included Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.

These represent a diverse range of political and demographic types consisting of large and small populations in both developed and developing countries. One of the main findings to emerge from the report was the similarity between authorities based in the different countries.

The report found a core set of services that are provided by local authorities. These included the following, in order of popularity.

  • Community/social services
  • Refuse collection and management
  • Economic development
  • Environmental health
  • Water management
  • Recreation
  • Regulation (licenses, zoning)

The report also found that services such as police, fire, education and health tend to be the responsibility of other bodies (such as school boards) or are handled at a state or national level. However, for authorities who were responsible for education or health, expenditure was likely to be double that of other authorities.

The usefulness of the report is that it goes beyond listing services provided or statistics to include actual examples of best practice. The topics covered are those of greatest relevance to the future of Local Government and examples of case studies are as follows.

  • Electronic tendering (Australia and Canada)
  • Online Reverse auctions (United States)
  • Online tax returns (Ireland and Canada)
  • Performance indicators (Canada)
  • Government web portals (Australia and New Zealand).

To accompany these various case studies is developing an online resource centre that will act as an international best practice database. Users can search the database to look for ideas or case studies in a particular topic such as eprocurement or online forms. The results will have a description of the initiative and links for further information.

All the key information from the report will be included in the online resource centre and the intention is to constantly update the database as new initiatives come to light.

With governments pushing for greater egovernment progress this report and online resource centre should provide an invaluable tool for Local Government officers. By collecting information from around the world and placing it in one easy to use database saves users from spending time and effort searching the internet.

The report identifies world leaders in egovernment against which others can compare their progress and learn.

* John McIlroy is the Senior Researcher at, a website for Local Government officers.