Community approval of council performance dips

The overall performance of Victoria’s councils is at its lowest level in eight years, according to a community survey.

Monash Mayor Stuart James

Local Government Victoria’s 2020 Community Satisfaction Survey  gave councils an overall performance index score of 58, two points less than last year and down from 61 in 2014.

“Perceptions of Councils’ overall performance have declined across all geographic and demographic cohorts over the past year,” the report says, although it notes the decreases have been small.

Despite the decline, it says a selection of results from the last nine years shows that councils in Victoria are providing services that meet public expectations.

It found councils were seen as doing best on arts centres and libraries, which got a score of 74; public areas (72); and recreational facilities (70).

However, perceptions of performance on most other service areas have declined – most markedly on roads, emergency and disaster management and waste management.

Across the state, councils rated lowest in the areas of unsealed roads (44) and slashing and weed control (49). Twelve per cent of residents rated sealed roads as the council area most in need of improvement.

“A focus on good customer service, engagement with residents, transparency and community interest in Council decision making, and attending to the condition of local roads, can help improve community perceptions over the next 12 months,” the report says.

Customer service

Two thirds of residents rated customer service as good.

Councils scored 70 for customer service, down one point from 2019. Customer service ratings were high for person-to-person contact, phone and text messages. There was a six per cent decline for people whose last transaction occurred through a council website.

Statewide, the preferred form of communication by councils was newsletters sent by mail or email, while simply putting information on a council website is the least preferred form of communication.

The annual survey compiles community feedback on overall performance, community engagement, advocacy, customer service and overall direction.

Sixty-one of the state’s 79 councils took part in the optional 2020 survey, which was conducted by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

City of Monash tops ladder

One of them was City of Monash Council, which recorded its highest score yet of 75 and is claiming the highest satisfaction level so far among metropolitan councils.

Mayor Stuart James said the survey showed improved results for community trust and confidence, which was important as Council responded to the COVID crisis.

The results provided valuable information about which services are working and where further improvements can be made, he said.

“These are outstanding results at a challenging time for our community and give us confidence that our critical services and programs are valued and supported by the community, and that we are on the right track with how we are supporting the community and providing the services they value,” Cr James said.

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