SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has a “moderate to weak” reputation amongst ratepayers – with the latest annual survey rating its performance at 46 out of a possible 100.
Of the 621 people surveyed for the South Gippsland Shire Council Annual Residents Satisfaction Survey 2018, just 15 per cent said they are very satisfied (registering a score between eight and 10) with Council’s performance.
Respondents in the Coastal Promontory ward – an area which takes in Foster, Toora, Port Welshpool, Wilsons Promontory, parts of Fish Creek and a number of other towns – had the lowest opinion of Council, recording a satisfaction rating at just 44.
But Coastal Promontory Ward’s Cr Ray Argento believes the survey results would improve in the coming years.
“I think it’s early days for this Council. It’s still early days as far as influencing the community. Most of the results from this Council won’t be felt until the third or fourth year (of the new Council’s term),” he said.
“We’ve got a number of good projects in this area that won’t actually come to fruition for a while. People won’t see the results of what this Council is achieving until then.”
He listed the reconstruction of the Port Welshpool Long Jetty and improvement in Foster’s streetscape as some of the positive things happening locally. He said Council was waiting for Parks Victoria to sign off on works at Agnes Falls, which would finally see a viewing platform built at the popular tourist attraction.
According to analysis of the results, only one-fifth of residents classified as ‘Champions’ – having a positive emotional connection and recognising that Council is doing a good job. Conversely, a large proportion of residents are considered ‘Sceptics’, having less trust in Council and believing they could do a better job.
Most residents surveyed think Council’s performance has stayed the same over the past 12 months, although around one-fifth think it has deteriorated.
The most common gripe was the fairness of the rates system and providing better value for money. Many of those surveyed believe Council should listen to ratepayers, with more collaboration, better communications, and more transparency and accountability.
Like Cr Argento, Mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt is similarly optimistic of a change in Council’s future survey results. “Even though there hasn’t been much of a shift in how our performance is viewed by the community and the results in many areas are quite disappointing, this new research provides more detail on the data behind the headline figures. In time this will give us more understanding on how to start changing perception,” Cr Brunt said.
“There is always a tension between people who want more services and better facilities and those who want to see rates and service levels reduced. We strive to find that balance in how we allocate resources according to the Council Plan and the four-year Strategic Resource Plan. “On a positive note it is encouraging to see significant increases in areas such as sealed local roads and customer service this year. Hopefully they’re the start of a pattern that will emerge over the next couple of years.”
Cr Brunt thanked those who completed the survey. “The survey is a significant investment by Council and a legislative requirement, so it’s vital that people continue to engage with this research as we move to quarterly surveys after July.”
The information provided in the survey will be used to inform the 2018/19 annual review of the Council Plan and the development of the 2019/20 Annual Initiatives and Annual Budget, and the Long Term Financial Plan. Council will include the relevant results in the Annual Report.