PUBLIC satisfaction with the performance of Mornington Peninsula Shire Council is at an “all time low”, according to a mandatory yearly satisfaction survey.
It rated “significantly lower” than the state average in nine out of 28 service areas as well as in customer service, value for money and overall performance, according to J W S Research which surveyed Victorian municipalities for the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.
“Indeed, more than twice as many residents feel that the direction of council’s overall performance has deteriorated than improved in the last 12 months,” the survey company stated.
“This is reflected across most individual service areas, as well as customer service, where perceptions have declined significantly and are at the lowest levels recorded.”
The only areas where the shire performed better than similar councils was in tourism development and “the appearance of public areas”.
The poor result follows reports of rifts between councillors elected in November 2020. Eight of the 11 elected councillors had not previously been councillors and one of the three re-elected councillors has since resigned.
Among the problems faced by the new council were factions (including the at the time mayor sometimes only emailing five “supportive” councillors) and complaints laid with the Local Government Inspectorate by councillors and community groups.
At least three of the first time councillors have political aspirations, with one missing Liberal Party preselection, one failing to be elected as an independent at the May federal election and another now standing for Labor in the November state election.
The mayor Cr Anthony Marsh said last week that it had been “disappointing” to see the drop in public satisfaction of the shire’s performance.
“While we performed well in a few areas, I believe the results in part reflect the circumstances we’ve faced during the year, being the pandemic, a major storm clean-up and a severe shortage of contractors,” he said.
Marsh said an extra $3.5 million had been allocated to “mitigate the damage caused by the 2021 storm events and a $10 million COVID recovery budget to support the community”.
Extra staff had also been deployed to fix potholes.
However, Marsh said “it’s clear we need to do better”.
“Ultimately, council needs to take responsibility for these results as the buck stops with us. I am confident that together with the [recently re-appointed] CEO [John Baker], we can address these concerns and improve our service to the community.”
Cr Susan Bissinger said she had pushed for the survey results to be published promptly so “we could start to address the serious issues raised … and hopefully not just sweep the results under the carpet”.
“Quite honestly, the results aligned with the feedback I receive from my community, but to see it was shire-wide and in print was a little shocking,” she said.
“I am here to represent my ward, and the feedback I am consistently receiving from them is that at council level there is too much emphasis on global issues and not enough on local issues.”
Bissinger said the council needed to “evaluate where it is going wrong, find out exactly what the community wants and try and align more to the community we serve”.
“Council officers and councillors then have to look at the hard facts, including extensive feedback from our residents, and make changes accordingly,” she said. “My biggest concern is the direction of council [rating] 41/100 as, according to the survey results, the council has missed the mark with their own community.”
The report is on the shire website under community reports.