Measure the effectiveness of councillors, not just the casework

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Our report on councillors’ casework and the volume of residents’ enquiries they handle is only a very limited way of measuring their effectiveness, according to ROBERT CANNING (pictured left). He’s even done an equation to prove it…

Your report about the volume of councillors’ casework was an interesting read, but your methodology is flawed.

Workload: is your local councillor pulling their weight?

Councillors do casework as ward councillors. Anything from reporting fly-tipping and potholes to difficult housing casework. That’s why they all get the basic councillor allowance of £11,692.

Special Responsibility Allowances – SRAs – are paid for additional work, such as chairing a committee or being in the cabinet or shadow cabinet. The SRA is specific to that role.

Consequently, the number of bits of casework handled needs to be costed using only the basic councillor allowance, and nothing more, for an accurate assessment of value for money.

For a full picture of what the Council Tax-payer is getting from each of their elected representatives, you would need to look at the total allowances each receives relative to all the work they do and develop and apply an equation along the lines of:


V = value for money
Ca = total casework undertaken
Co = community engagement (eg meeting with a residents’ association or the local Safer Neighbourhood Team etc)
Cc = council committee work (membership of committees that do the day-to-day work of the council such as scrutiny and planning)
E = extra work undertaken on behalf of the ward such as arranging a litter pick, engaging with developers or responding to TfL consultations on, say, bus services – and which is largely seen as voluntary or optional by many councillors
S = work done for a special responsibility allowance (including cabinet membership and cabinet meetings)
A = total allowances paid

I also think casework needs to be disaggregated between “easy” and “difficult”.

Any idiot can report a pothole, but getting a needy family rehoused or sorting out someone’s Council Tax arrears is usually anything but straightforward. Just wandering around the streets taking lots of snapshots of the latest graffiti tags and reporting it through the council’s casework management system does not make you a good or effective councillor.

When I was a councillor, I usually dealt with around 20 bits of casework a week (although the new casework register didn’t exist when I was in office). The vast majority of these were straightforward reports of potholes, missed bin collections and fly-tipping.

There were probably one or two difficult cases a week.

There was no need for me always to go to officers when accumulated experience and knowledge meant that I could give an answer to a resident without the need to contact officers. The data on the casework register won’t record these instances.

I don’t know whether the Freedom of Information request data you received is just cases logged, or cases that have been successfully dealt with. I would prefer to see the focus on resolved casework rather than reported casework. Too many councillors report something and think that’s all they need to do, rather than check that casework is then actioned.

Nor do I know if the casework register includes planning objections on the part of councillors, or if these are still logged directly with the planning department.

Finally, it must surely be the case that many residents with a local issue – particularly in Tory wards – will now go directly to the all-powerful executive Mayor rather than their ward councillors? Mayor Perry will invariably get a better standard of service from council officers than ward councillors.

If Walter Cronxite doesn’t already have a doctorate in politics, I’ll leave him to decide if he wants to develop the councillors’ value for money equation and undertake some further analysis. It could make for an interesting read.

Read more: Revealed: Croydon’s laziest and costliest local councillors
Read more: Making the case for councillors’ casework to be made public

  • Robert Canning was a Labour Party councillor for Waddon ward from 2014 to 2022

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9 Responses to Measure the effectiveness of councillors, not just the casework

  1. Leslie Parry says:

    A very logical and interesting article but the one thing that should be front and centre is: does a councillor put people first? Party Policy? Personal ambition? My view is that all politicians must put the people first! It is sad that I know of two current Labour councillors who do not.

  2. croydonres says:

    The formula, to my unmathemetical eye, seems to be on a level of sophistication superior to that demonstrating Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.


    Identifying those who “do” a lot and those who do much less is clearly rather difficult, but valuable nonetheless. Quality and Quantity have to be in there somewhere.

    Task completed too, and date.

    To anyone trying to ascertain whether a pot hole has been filled, or fly tip removed, without having to go back to look at the site, has my sympathy, whether resident of Councillor.

    The last time I went in to the website and reported direct to the Council, or via “Fix my Street”, I think that I could find it as a tag on a map.

    I think that I definitely got a “thank you for reporting this” type of standard email, although it was clear that they don’t like us to use “Fix my street”, even though it is apparently approved by the UK govt.! Not sure if they gave me a Job ticket number.

    It would have then been very good to have later received a helpful email message to say that “the problem or incident you reported on xxx xxx number xxxx was completed on …day the xxx of xxx 2023 by the following council team or contractor………”

    As far as I could tell, the report was shown on a map after it was eported, but not after completion. As a record it would be useful to show any completed in the last 12 months.

    Surely it would be easy to have a map showing a red tag (with date reported) for a “report/ request” and a green tag for all those completed?. They could be on the same screen, maybe with an archive screen for all jobs done in the last 2 years.

    A number of actions would have to be taken by the person or maybe the Croybot receiving the request … such as verifying the location and the of problem, before sending the request to the depot or contrctor team doing the work needed….. and logging a number for the job on the council IT / “works order” system?

    Would it really be much extra time and cost for the Council, if they did one more thing, to write and send a standard email or text message to the public-spirited person who had bothered to spend time reporting the incidence to the Council ?

    If I am wrong, and the Croydon reporting system automatically issues such emails or texts nowadays, to advise “Completion” , I will issue a full apology without reservation or qualification.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      I do get messages saying it was cleared and still check anyway – but it could be a lot better as you rightly say. One problem is that over the last few years we have identified repeat offenders fly tipping and it still goes on. I am beginning to wonder if the hugh piles of waste on st James road Elmwood road, Wellington Road by the back of the pub London Road by the bus stop and the bell at Broad Green are actual fly tips or just businesses dumping waste at a convenient place. The stuff dumped at the other end of Elmwood and all those streets of St Saviours Road and Lodge road are definitely flytipping, including opposite the school on Elmwood

  3. Sally Peters says:

    my equation:


    s= workload that needs to be done
    f = Cllr Frazer
    a= councillor’s laziness and absenteeism

    Performance of Representation for Addiscombe West = s x f x a = sfa = sweet fuck all.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Sally’s response caused some giggles and a coughing fit as i was drinking at the time of reading it. Not sensible in hindsight.
    I do like Roberts response and he is right there is a lot more they do than is apparant. Those that are diligent and work intelligently are a godsend and then there are those that do not.
    Strangely my experiance and my Neighbours is that they very rarely (and I am talking twice in 7 years)ever respond and the answers received begger belief. Better to visit them in Surgery. But that is once a month. Personally I report flytipping, potholes and other hazards weekly when able and they are actioned usually in days.

    Blocked access, responses have improved and that is down to the hard work of Parking enforcement with very limited resources.

    but the rest – Anti social behaviours, Parties, Raves, Drugs Dangerous structures car damage and thefts from cars along with the data on known offenders is rarely acted on in any reasonable time.
    Not one Councillor has as yet provided any answers to some fundamental questions raised. Not one Council official from its executive has explained their actions which has created some of the highest hotspots for Crime in the Borough.

    The latest from Perry is that idiotic PSPO Zone. Everyone knows they just move to the next street. at least on the London road the Police cars go by and can see the drinkers and the crack dealers the prositutes at the bus stop by best foods and the woman working for the local dealer busting cars and stealing disabled badges. But that would involve actual investigation, someone looking at airspace, someone actually gathering intelligence, It would involve the Councilors talking to residents taking those concerns to the very welcoming Neighborhood Police stationed some distance away. It would involve Councillors covering for each other to ensure matters are not left by default.
    Can Perry show one benefit in the public interest to all those materially affected by this PSPO?
    Can we have a PSPO radiating 500mtres from Perrys orifice to ensure no further harm is caused by his bumbling?

    There are Councillors that do this and many that do not. Then there are those that choose which matters to respond to and to whom.

    Councillors from both main parties should know that blind support in numbers died with the first 114 notice and the resultant deprivation. It is unlikely to return with the current behaviors

  5. Ian Kierans says:

    As an example this is one of two sent today re fly-tipping – they are usually quite responsive and clear it by tomorrow latest wednesday but more will be there by thursday and it will keep getting bigger.
    The issue is not reporting te issues it is dealing with them so they do not recur. And tere you ahve the problem with sending stuff to Councillors that just feel reporting the matter is their job done.
    The Don’t Mess with Croydon campaign seeks to crack down on fly-tipping and other environmental crimes in the borough. You can find out more about the campaign at

    Summary of your report

    Type of issue: Fly tip on public land

    Location: 4A, St James’s Road, Croydon, CR0 2SA

    Map link: open Google map

    Our reference: 3434327

    Thanks again for taking pride in Croydon.

    Don’t Mess with Croydon team
    Croydon Council

  6. Ian Kierans says:

    And thid was the response to the London road which was done today – We’ve closed the issue you reported.

    Thank you for reporting an issue to Croydon Council.

    If you have further concerns about the issue, please submit another report via the app.

    Details of your report

    Type of issue: Fly tip on public land
    Description: Rubbish and aired
    Location: 252C, London Road, Croydon, CR0 2TH
    Map link: open Google map
    Our reference: 3434319
    Closing comment: Please see the report in the app for updates.

    Thank you again for taking pride in Croydon.

    Don’t Mess with Croydon team
    Croydon Council

  7. Ian Kierans says:

    So I can understand Roberts view that their is more to the work of Councillors there is much that clearly takes more of their time than reports. Perhaps workshops on how to do this or funding for a person to help those that are digitally blind or perhaps given the multitude of dumping by HMO tenants as Landlords are either absent or do not give them enough information.
    How about working on a way to prevent Landlords or their agents dumping the previous tenants goods and waste onto the public path?
    How about taking action on sites like st james road that are fly tipped daily?

    But hey why are we having to point out the obvious to Councillors that do not know or care what actually goes on in their wards?

    There are good Councilors and their are those that see this as a political career without having to actually do aything for the residents. And their are exceptions to both of those.

    It takes no brains to work out what one you have elected.

    But perhaps Councillor training is the issue?

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