SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council is taking a multi-faceted approach to improving its poor standing in the community.
Councillors were disappointed when the results of the 2014 Community Satisfaction Survey came out earlier this year. The 2014 results were slightly lower than those of the previous year for most of the core measures – and last year’s were nothing to write home about. In response, Council requested further analysis and benchmarking with other shires classified as Large Rural, and this was undertaken from August to October. The resulting report points out that there are definitely some higher performing councils in the region and/or the large rural shire category. “However, higher results are not consistent across all core measures, nor all councils.”
Council requested investigation into factors perceived to contribute to the higher results from the other similar shires and found that a combination of increased capital works programs and targeted communications campaigns were positive influential factors.
Council is taking steps to address the community’s concerns about capital works, particularly around roads, which feature prominently in the 2013 and 2014 survey results. It has allocated extra money to roads in the 2014-2015 Budget and has for a long time advocated strongly on behalf of the community to the State and Federal government regarding the poor state of the roads for which the shire is not responsible.
Communications and engagement related initiatives already underway include making more use of social media to inform the community and implementing improvements to the council website. Council hopes to engage better with ratepayers and get a better idea of where the community feels it could improve through the recently announced OurSay online community engagement process. At the October 22 meeting Council voted to take the results into account in its forward planning process. It also voted to develop an implementation strategy for the Communication and Engagement Policy.
Introducing the motion to note and act on the 2014 Community Satisfaction Survey results, Cr Andrew McEwen commented, “We’ve got a very good Communication and Engagement Policy. We need to implement it properly. Hopefully OurSay is the answer.”
Cr Mohya Davies expressed disappointment that Council was under appreciated, but said “we’re making efforts”. She urged her fellow Councillors to note the response to the questions on swimming pools. When asked whether they were willing to consider a possible increase to the rates levy to retain pools in the shire, 30 per cent of respondents agreed to “probably increase the levy on rates” and 31 per cent of respondents agreed to “definitely increase the levy on rates”. When respondents were presented with the options of “probably” or ‘definitely” closing one or more pools, the response to each option was only 13 per cent. “Evidently the pools are very much loved by the community,” Cr Davies remarked.