THE results of the 2016 Community Satisfaction Survey of South Gippsland Shire Council are out and they make no better reading than usual. Council’s performance on all core measures has changed little in recent years. It still trails average ratings for Large Rural Councils and for the State as a whole. Scored on a 100-point index scale, most core measures rate below 50.
It should be noted, however, that average performance measures for Large Rural Councils and Statewide are rarely much above 50 and certainly never anywhere near 100.
Annual Local Government Community Satisfaction Surveys are coordinated by Local Government Victoria (LGV) on behalf of local councils. A total of 400 randomly completed interviews were conducted in South Gippsland Shire between February 1 and March 30.
Of the core measures, Council continues to perform best in the area of Customer Service, and higher results were received for Community Decisions, Sealed Local Roads and Advocacy. Lower results were for Overall Performance and Community Consultation.
When it came to ‘Best Thing About Council,’ residents pointed to Parks and Gardens, Councillors and Customer Service, while indications of where ‘Council most needs to improve’ included Sealed Road Maintenance, Community Consultation and Expensive Rates.
Mayor, Cr Robert Newton, said Sealed Local Roads continued to be the most problematic area, despite improving by three points.
“This is most concerning, as 11 of the 17 roads specified by respondents as being poor are State Government roads managed by VicRoads. The top two most cited roads are State highways,” Cr Newton said.
“This clearly means that more needs to be done by Council and VicRoads in terms of informing the community about who owns and manages what roads.”
Cr Newton said he believed the survey did not accurately reflect the ongoing work behind the scenes to achieve success.
“The Karmai Community Children’s Centre in Korumburra means better access for local families, long-awaited extensions to the iconic Great Southern Rail Trail means we now have a continuous trail from Leongatha to Port Welshpool, our effort in lobbying for both the Corner Inlet Tourism Development project and South Gippsland Highway Black Spur Alignment has put these invaluable projects firmly on the agenda,” he explained.
“There is an ambitious capital works program planned across the Shire, with $20.81M earmarked for works around property, plant and equipment and infrastructure. It is a significant achievement to be in a solid financial position and able to increase our Capital Works Program compared to past years while also adapting to rate capping. This amount was set and prioritised based on ongoing consultation with our community, as well as strategic planning to assess needs and develop sound business cases for each project.”
The results of the 2016 survey were tabled at the June council meeting.
Cr Jim Fawcett said that when he first joined Council in 2008 he thought the performance index would be relatively easy to move.
“But it has stayed stubbornly the same,” he said. “I am sure the concern in our community about roads is genuine, but it is mainly about State Government roads.”
Cr Fawcett said the survey results were fairly steady, only moving up or down a few points, but however frustrating councillors found this, they should continue to try to improve. “We will learn from it and continue to strive to improve,” he vowed.
Cr Andrew McEwen could not bring himself to vote for the report. He said: “It has become somewhat of a ritual that we get an appalling report and we continue not to substantially change. We should be asking why. I concur with Cr Fawcett that most of the roads are not our problem, but that’s not all…If we were running a business we’d be bankrupt. The reality is the results are not good and are not a good reflection of us.”
Cr Kieran Kennedy suggested that all levels of government are “on the nose” and the answer lay in community boards, who would liaise between Council and the community and give the community a deeper understanding of the work of local government.
“It’s important that we don’t overstate this,” said Cr Mohya Davies. She suggested that the results were likely to be skewed by the reaction of survey participants irked at being asked to respond to a survey over dinnertime.
“I’m glad we scored best  for our Customer Service,” she said, directing councillors to some of the better results in the survey.
Cr Fawcett said he echoed Cr Davies’ “glass half full” approach and noted: “In politics 51 per cent is a favourable outcome. The reality is we’ll never impress everyone.”