A Brief Inquiry into the Uses of Measurement and Benchmarking in Local Governance

By Nuno F. da Cruz

Measuring and comparing performance in local government is controversial for good reasons. When these initiatives expand beyond purely academic considerations and are implemented in practice, several unintended consequences are likely to arise. These include an excessive focus on particular aspects of governance, strategic responses to maximise scores, unaccounted effects of exogenous variables, among others. Still, assessing and monitoring performance is part of the day-to-day job of local public managers responsible for delivering essential services. The current paper reviews the limitations and potential of these practices in the context of local governance. It concludes with a discussion regarding the role of measurement and benchmarking in the pursuit of a strong local democracy.