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Measuring up in Northern Ireland

Measuring up in Northern Ireland

APSE performance networks has been working with Northern Ireland authorities to develop a new benchmarking project, which focuses on measuring success and driving excellence in local councils. APSE’s Debbie Johns, Head of performance networks, tells us more about this exciting project.

In Northern Ireland, under the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014, there is a new duty for each council to secure continuous improvement in the exercise of its functions. They are now expected to collect information relating to their performance in order to assess their work in previous financial years and, as far as is practicable, against the performance of other councils.

This is where APSE performance networks can help. We have been working with local councils in Northern Ireland to ensure that performance networks can meet the new responsibilities that councils now have under the Act. Eight of the 11 councils in Northern Ireland are now subscribed to the project, which stretches over these service areas:

  1. Leisure facility management
  2. Parks and open spaces
  3. Transport services
  4. Refuse collection
  5. Street Cleansing
  6. Cemeteries and crematoria
  7. Environmental health
  8. Planning
  9. Community development
  10. Economic development
  11. Cultural services
  12. Corporate services

Existing, relevant benchmarking modules have been refined and we have created bespoke new performance modules by collaborating with the Northern Ireland councils. These are for planning, community development, economic development, cultural services and corporate services.

We believe that the modules could be highly informative for other APSE authorities, too. Data collection is now underway and the initial set of performance reports will be issued winter 2016-17. Though it’s dependent on the successful development of these modules, we’re optimistic that these new services could be rolled out to councils throughout the UK, becoming much welcomed additions to the APSE performance networks family of services.

We’re continuing to liaise with the Department for Communities over the development work in Northern Ireland. A special thematic forum will be held at the forthcoming APSE performance networks seminar in Blackpool on 1 December 2016, which will feature a presentation from Nichola Creagh, from the Local Government Policy Division at the Department for Communities.

As part of this project, we have developed new performance measures in a number of highly relevant areas. These include:


  • Percentage of major planning applications processed within 30 weeks
  • The average processing time of major planning applications
  • Percentage of local planning applications processed within 15 weeks
  • The average processing time of local planning applications
  • Percentage of enforcement cases processed and concluded within the 39 weeks

Corporate services

  • Organisational development / human resources performance indicators
  • ICT performance indicators
  • Registration Services performance indicators
  • Legal Services performance indicators
  • Training/Learning performance indicators
  • Finance performance indicators
  • Democratic Services performance indicators
  • Complaints
  • Overall satisfaction
  • Cost of services
  • Accessibility

Cultural services

  • Net cost of all cultural services per head of population
  • Net cost of theatres services per head of population
  • Net cost of visitor attraction services per head of population
  • Net cost of festivals / event services per head of population
  • Net cost of other cultural services per head of population
  • Theatre participation rates per head of population
  • Visitor attractions participation rates per head of population
  • Percentage staff absence for cultural services (all staff)
  • Percentage long term absenteeism / lost time rate for cultural services
  • Percentage short term absenteeism / lost time rate for cultural services

Economic development

  • Number of business plan applications approved
  • Percentage of business plan applications granted for a 'business start-up'
  • The number of jobs promoted through business start-up activity
  • Percentage achieved jobs promoted against rate POST RSI final evaluation

Community development

  • Net cost of community development services per head of population (including CEC)
  • Net cost of community development services per head of population (excluding CEC)
  • Percentage of community development spend sourced via external funding
  • Community development participation rates per annum per head of population

Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.




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