Community satisfaction on the up, but there’s more work to be done

Published on 06 July 2018

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Community satisfaction on the up, but there’s more work to be done

Mayor Joe McCracken has welcomed survey results showing a significant increase in community satisfaction throughout Colac Otway Shire over the past 12 months.

The State Government-commissioned survey shows Colac Otway Shire jumped eight points in the past year to a score of 55 which is just shy of the average score of 56 across other large rural councils in the state.

Cr McCracken said the improved score was driven by perceived improvements in community consultation, engagement, customer service, lobbying and community decisions.

“I’m really proud that we’ve taken some big steps forward, but I’m also mindful that our score of 55 remains below the state-wide average of 59,” he said.

“So while we’ll take a short moment to reflect on what we’ve improved on, our focus has already turned to areas where the community perceives our organisation operates below expectation.”

Cr McCracken said the survey consisted of seven compulsory questions about core services and 16 optional questions to help assess satisfaction for more specific individual services.

“Customer Service was our highest performing core area with a score of 68, following by Overall Direction with 56, Community Consultation and Overall Performance with 55, Advocacy with 54, Community Decisions with 49 and Sealed Local Roads was clearly our worst scoring area with 39,” he said.

“More specifically we had great scores of 73 for Art Centres and Libraries, 69 for Emergency and Disaster Management and 68 for Elderly Support, while at the other end of the spectrum we scored 39 for both the Condition of Sealed Local Roads and Planning/Building Permits and just 36 for Maintenance of Unsealed Roads.

“Councillors met with senior officers on Wednesday to understand how the organisation is responding to the areas that stand out as being most in need of attention – namely sealed local roads, unsealed roads and the planning/building permits.”

New chief executive Peter Brown said survey respondents who scored those three key action areas as average, poor or very poor were asked to expand on their responses.

“It was identified that more than two-thirds of the sealed roads cited are not Council roads – they’re VicRoads managed roads. This week we’ve addressed not only how we can address the roads we manage, but also how we can continue to advocate to the State Government for specific action on its identified roads,” he said.

“The bulk of concerns relating to unsealed roads are of course managed by council, so we’re reviewing our maintenance schedule for those roads to see if our available resources can better meet community expectation.”

Mr Brown said the low score for planning and building permits had been influenced by community members’ perceptions that the process took too long.

“In my experience that’s something that is quite common in Local Government, but I’m pleased to say our planning department at Colac Otway Shire is already addressing this through its service review and action plan,” he said.

“A ‘fast track’ process has been implemented for simple permit applications, we’ve improved our IT systems and a number of other actions have meant that more than three-quarters of planning applications are now decided within 60 days.

“There’s no doubt the Council’s planning and building team has had to prioritise disaster recovery work in recent years, so that has limited the progress that could have been made to further streamline approval processes.”

Cr McCracken said the annual survey process was good for the Council and provided valuable benchmarking that would continue to drive improvement and lift community satisfaction.

“The survey also informs us of other sentiments, such as that the Colac community has a more favourable impression of Council compared to Apollo Bay for example,” he said.

“We are acutely aware of the challenges and opportunities along the coast and I’d like to assure the Apollo Bay and district community that we’re committed to servicing the whole shire.

“We’re currently completing a traffic and parking survey as part of developing a strategy to manage the increasing number of tourists visiting Apollo Bay to improve traffic management for residents and visitors.”

A report from JWS Research, which conducts the survey annually for the State Government, can be viewed via the links below.

Report JWS Research - Community Satisfaction Survey - 2018(PDF, 3MB)

Report Tailored Questions JWS Research - Community Satisfaction Survey - 2018(PDF, 954KB)

Verbatim - Sealed Roads, Unsealed Roads, Planning & Building Permits - Community Satisfaction Survey - 2018 (PDF, 246KB)