The Local Government Performance Index (LGPI) aims to make data on the performance of Canada’s municipalities available in one, easily accessible location so that members of the public, media, and government can better understand how municipalities are performing in comparison to each other.
The hope of the LGPI is that this ease of access to data will help everyone involved in local government to identify best practices and areas for improvement in both actual performance and the way performance is reported on.
The LGPI has been published annually since 2007, and in 2010 was transformed into an entirely new open database concept. In 2011, it was developed further to streamline the original concept, in response to comments from the public, media, and local government practitioners. While previous reports were prepared and published within the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, the LGPI is now a living database where anybody can register and examine the data, challenge it, and even add to or change it if they are able to provide a source.
This new methodology is intended to engage more minds in the measurement and pursuit of better local government, resulting in more data for more cities and greater transparency in the way that the data is provided.
The Local Government Performance Index is a project of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy which is made possible by generous donations from the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation and the Aurea Foundation.
While they rarely command the level of nationwide attention that federal or provincial governments do, and many of their activities are literally underground, municipalities are just as important as other levels of government. According to earlier editions of the Local Government Performance Index, municipal government revenues and expenditures equate to six per cent of household income. Meanwhile, the average municipality manages approximately $18,000 of capital assets on behalf of the average household in its jurisdiction. That is easily the second largest “asset” connected to many households behind their houses.
Yet there are vast differences in the performance of local governments. Some manage to operate with zero long-term debt while others spend hundreds of dollars per household per year on maintaining the debt they are carrying. Some have budgets three times larger than others on a per household basis, yet appear to offer similar standards of living. Some report on their performance in great detail while others struggle to meet the basic requirements of their auditors.
The importance of local government combined with the apparent variations in performance suggest that there is significant scope to improve the entire Canadian economy and lifestyle by having all municipal governments performing as well as the best. However, it is necessary to properly understand the differences first, and the LGPI is designed to be a resource for that task.
The LGPI is a measure of municipalities’ financial statistics (e.g. how much tax, expenditure on public safety, debt, etc.), and the quality of their reporting. It does not assess the results of output reporting (e.g. percentage of water leaked from reticulation system or average response time to 911 calls) directly, because this type of reporting is too sparse to make useful comparisons of service delivery performance.
However, it does assess the quality of reporting in the annual financial statements (for example, is a schedule listing tangible capital assets included?). The hope in reporting on the quality of disclosure is that revealing where the “edges of the shadows” are will encourage municipalities to illuminate their service delivery performance by reporting more data.
A full list of measures can be seen by looking at the report for any individual city in the “Browse Cities” section.
From 2007-2009, the Local Government Performance Index was published as a traditional index prepared by staff of the Frontier Centre. While these indexes were widely covered in the media and many people expressed that they found the index valuable, there were several areas where the traditional index model might be improved upon.
While no system of data assembly is perfect, we believe that this “wisdom of crowds” approach will give better results than traditional indexes.
Like all projects, the LGPI is based on some key assumptions: