COMMUNITY satisfaction with the Horsham Rural City Council has dropped significantly.
Results of the 2018 community satisfaction survey were discussed by councillors at the council’s August meeting on Monday night.
The report noted that the council’s overall performance was at its lowest level since 2012, with an average rating of 54 – a decrease from last year’s rating of 60.
This is significantly lower than the average rating for councils state-wide – which is 59 – and councils in regional centres – which is 58.
The council’s performance on community consultation had an average rating of 53, which was a drop from last year’s score of 57.
Results declined across demographic and geographic sub-groups, with 24 per cent of residents claiming community consultation was an area in need of improvement.
In his report to the council, corporate services director Graeme Harrison said the survey agency had concluded that perceptions of the council had “declined significantly” on most measures in the past year.
“They suggested that council look to areas where current performance is both lower than what has been achieved previously and significantly lower than the group average for regional centres,” he said.
“Results declined across demographic and geographic sub-groups on most measures, with no notable distinctions by area of residence.
“The largest differences tend to exist at the generational level, and residents aged 50 to 64 years are less favourable than residents overall in their impressions of council’s performance on most measures.”
Cr Josh Koenig said the results were concerning.
“It’s not a pretty report and it is no doubt a concern for council – we’ve got to own that,” he said.
“A total of 24 per cent of residents say that community consultation needs improvement. We’re making some progress, but there needs to be a stronger look at that.
“What’s pleasing is that 18 to 34-year-olds say they are the most pleased with how we’re travelling, which may be because we’ve moved more towards online stuff.”
Cr David Grimble said the council couldn’t ignore the results.
“I don’t lose sleep over these survey, but the council needs to pay attention to the things that matter,” he said.
“We will have a reality check when we go out to seek re-election.”
Cr John Robinson said the survey was more of a “dissatisfaction survey” than a satisfaction survey.
“The community has said that the bypass is one of their main issues, but our decision was to not make a decision,” he said.
“If we don’t take positive and productive steps, we will go down the gurgler more so next year than this year.
“It’s important to note that, despite all this, our customer satisfaction is still high, so we should take our hats off to those staff members.”
Cr Alethea Gulvin said the results made her feel like she wasn’t doing her job.
Mayor Pam Clarke said the council needed to think about how it acted.
“We need to ask ourselves how can we stop disunity,” she said.
“For more than 100 years, councillors have had the same ethics and values, but that has not been the case for this council. It has spread to the community that we don’t work well together.
“We are criticised by our fellow councillors in the media. We need to support each other as a group.”
Cr Grimble called a point of order following Cr Clarke’s comments, making the claim that her comments were directed at him.
The survey contained 13 compulsory questions, plus two additional free text questions selected by the council.
It was conducted by Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing, which is a representative random probability survey of residents.
The survey cost $11,800 and was included in the 2017-18 Budget.