NSW Overview

Expenditure by Services 2021/22 (%)

Expenditure by Service

Councils provide a variety of services. Ultimately, each council has the discretion to decide what services to provide an appropriate service levels, in consultation with its community. Some are provided on a user pays basis, while others are funded through a council’s rating income and grants.

A number of factors affect the range, delivery and cost of council services:

  • the population size and mix
  • the availability of funding
  • socio-economic factors
  • geography
  • the number and range of services provided
  • councils’ cost allocation practices
  • the efficiency of council
  • council policies
  • short term programs

Total Expenditure for each area of service:

Service Type Description of Service
Governance & administration Council’s role as a democratic government, including elections, members’ fees and expenses, meetings of councils and policy making committees, area representation and public disclosure and compliance, corporate support and other support services, engineering works and any council policy compliance.
Public order, safety and health Fire services, fire protection, emergency services, beach control, enforcement of local government regulations and animal control.
Environment Noxious plants and insect/vermin control, environmental protection, solid waste management, street cleaning, drainage and stormwater management.
Community services, education & housing Administration and education, social protection (welfare), aged, disabled and children’s services, public cemeteries and conveniences, street lighting, town planning and other community amenities.
Water & sewer The provision of water and sewer services.
Recreation and culture Libraries, museums, art galleries, community centres, halls and performing arts, sporting grounds and venues, swimming pools, parks and gardens and other sporting and recreation facilities.
Roads, Bridges & Footpaths The provision of roads, bridges and footpaths.
Other Services Services such as caravan parks, economic activities, agriculture, building control, aerodromes and communication.


Some care needs to be taken when drawing conclusions about these results. While water and sewer represents 10% of average expenditure, only 66% of councils provide either one or both of these services. No metropolitan councils provide water and sewer and in some regional and rural areas, the services are provided by county councils. In addition, depending on councils’ costing methods, the governance and administration category includes a range of indirect costs, such as payroll, associated with providing other services. Key observations are:

  • Rural councils generally have far greater costs per capita due to their relatively smaller population.
  • Road related expenditure is far greater in rural areas due to the significantly larger road networks.

Per Capita Expenditure by Service:

  • Metropolitan and metropolitan fringe councils have lower per capita expenditure primarily due to economies of scale.
  • Expenditure per capita can vary due to councils’ decisions in relation to number and size of services provided.
  • Metropolitan councils do not provide water and sewer services.
  • Many rural councils provide ‘Other Services’ such as aerodromes, medical and agricultural services that are not provided by most other councils

Expenditure per Resident by Service Type 2020-21 ($)

State avg. Metro Metro fringe Regional Large rural Rural
Governance & Admin 285.99 318.66 237.50 344.27 153.17 314.23
Public Order, Safety, Health 73.02 76.43 95.89 79.61 40.25 73.02
Environment 292.36 307.96 387.93 366.31 97.24 126.17
Community Services, Amenities, Education, Housing 165.25 198.01 206.53 152.24 83.06 204.80
Water & Sewer 165.25 N/A 174.94 393.92 163.40 175.19
Recreation & Culture 262.24 308.19 306.71 290.02 100.60 151.41
Roads, Bridges, Footpaths 255.05 156.01 263.38 359.76 274.02 550.96
Other Services 111.63 71.04 109.78 186.07 81.74 153.04