MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Steve Holland says it is “unnecessary and without basis” for the state government to investigate the shire’s performance.
“Based on recent benchmarking, [the shire] remains one of the most efficient councils in Victoria, compared to similar councils,” Holland said.
“The shire continues to deliver a balanced budget every year and has the eighth lowest rates out of 79 councils in Victoria. This is the place to be.”
Holland’s comments follow calls by two ratepayer groups for an inquiry.
“Our request that the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry is simply an investigation, not an indication of guilt and offers a means for improving performance,” treasurer/secretary of Mornington Peninsula Ratepayers’ Association Alan Nelsen and Nepean Ratepayers Association president Colin Watson have told the Premier Daniel Andrews (“Ratepayers want inquiry into shire” The News 11/4/23).
The two ratepayer groups point to a different survey than the one quoted by the mayor that involved only rates.
They say the Department of Local Government’s 2022 Community Satisfaction Survey confirms that the shire has “lost its way” and that the government “can no longer claim that it is unaware of the embarrassment this council is causing”.
Regarded as a “report card” for municipalities, the community satisfaction survey was the “worst ever” result for the shire (“Shire hits ‘all time’ low in satisfaction” The News 3/10/22).
Then mayor Cr Anthony Marsh said it had been “disappointing” to see the drop in public satisfaction of the shire’s performance.
“… 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.
The results, according to J W S Research which surveyed Victorian municipalities for the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, showed the shire as being “significantly” below the state average in nine out of 28 service areas as well as in customer service, value for money and performance.
“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 followed 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 (Hugh Fraser) has since resigned, followed last November by Paul Mercurio who was elected as the state MP for Hastings and in January this year by Kerri McCafferty.
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.