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Guide to Councils

Planning and reporting

Councils must plan effectively and report their results to ensure their activities are transparent and accountable to the community and other levels of government. It’s important that Victorians understand how public money is spent and the range and quality of services that a council delivers.

Councils are the closest form of government to the community. They are best placed to observe community needs and concerns and respond accordingly. Council planning is about envisioning and making choices that will shape the future. These choices can be based on a range of factors but should fundamentally be informed by local community’s aspirations, needs, values and priorities. Councils should actively pursue community input into the planning and reporting process.

Performance Reporting Framework

The Victorian Government has developed a new performance reporting framework to ensure that all councils are measuring and reporting on their performance in a consistent way. The framework became mandatory from 1 July 2014 and all councils be reporting results annually on this website.

Planning and accountability framework

The Local Government Act includes a planning and accountability framework for councils. Councils must deliver four core documents:

  • A Council Plan within the period of six months after each general election or by 30 June, whichever is later.
  • A Strategic Resource Plan for a period of at least four years that must be included in the Council Plan.
  • A Budget for each financial year.
  • An Annual Report for each financial year.

The following diagram shows the relationships between the key planning and reporting documents that make up the planning and accountability framework for local government. It also shows that there are opportunities for community and stakeholder input and feedback at each stage of the planning and reporting cycle. This is important to ensure accountability to residents and ratepayers. 

Planning and accountability framework 

Resources for councils

The Local Government Planning and Reporting Better Practice Guide (2016/17) (PDF, 652KB.) or (DOC, 187 KB.) and Fact Sheet (PDF, 86.6 KB.) or (DOC, 92.5 KB.) outline how the planning and reporting framework works. They also provide councils with practical information to assist in the development of key planning and reporting documents.

Other guidance and templates for councils can be found on the Local Government Victoria website.

Councils are required to deliver a Council Plan, Strategic Resource Plan and an annual budget as part of the planning and accountability framework. Many councils are now also preparing a Community Plan to help provide a long term strategic vision, although this is not mandatory.

The planning and accountability framework requires councils to prepare the following documents:

  • Council Plan
  • Strategic Resource Plan
  • Budget
  • Community Plan
  • Annual Report

Council Plan

The Council Plan is a key medium-term strategic plan and should reflect the outcome of stakeholder and community engagement. The Council Plan describes the strategic objectives, ways to achieve the objectives, indicators for measuring progress and the resources required to implement the plan for at least four years.

Strategic Resource Plan

The Strategic Resource Plan is a rolling plan of at least four years and forms part of the Council Plan. The Strategic Resource Plan outlines the financial and non-financial resources that council requires to achieve the strategic objectives described in the Council Plan. It must take into account services and initiatives contained in any plan adopted by the council. It must also contain financial statements, statements of non-financial resources and other information such as capital works and human resource requirements.

Budget

The Budget reflects the first year of the Strategic Resource Plan. It describes the services, initiatives and major initiatives to be funded, including service performance outcome indicators to help monitor performance. The Budget must contain financial statements and other information including capital works, human resources, grants and rating information.

Community Plan

Councils should take a leadership role in developing and facilitating community engagement and involvement in order to inform the preparation of their Council Plan. Although not a legislative requirement, the Council Plan can also be informed by long-term plans such as a Community Plan. A Community Plan typically describes the community's long-term vision and aspirations and is a way of directly involving the community in the lead up to the Council Plan preparation process.

Annual Report

The Annual Report outlines the council's performance for the year as measured against the Council Plan and Budget. The Annual Report contains information about the council’s achievements during the financial year including:

  • service performance indicator statement and results
  • achievement of major initiatives
  • governance and management checklist
  • financial statements.

The financial statements and performance statement are audited at the end of the financial year by the Victorian Auditor-General's Office.

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