LOCAL PRESS REPORTS COUNCIL RESPONSE TO SURVEY
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The Bass Coast Residents and Ratepayers Association (BCRRA) has released the results of a recent survey they designed to “gauge the community’s current feelings about council” and come up with a list of recommendations to “inform and assist” councillors and the CEO.
According to BCRRA, 176 people – 98 per cent of them Bass Coast ratepayers – completed their online survey between May 21 and June 21, 2020.
With questions including: “Do you believe Bass Coast Shire Council delivers you value for the rates that you pay?” and “Is there something that the council has done recently that you have been pleased about?” as well as room to comment on any issues of concern not included in the survey, responses suggested room for improvement in the perceived value received for rates paid; quality of community engagement; provision of rate relief; and the exercise of “financial discipline”.
The majority of respondents agreed that the shire’s general rate should be reduced or stay at its current level for the 2020/21 financial year (87 per cent); that council should offer formal rate reduction as part of its community and business COVID-19 recovery plan, where hardship can be demonstrated (81.3 per cent); that council’s recently adopted Media Engagement and Social Media policies “should be rescinded or at least be changed to allow councillors to express reasonable criticism of council decisions and policies” (70.3 per cent); and that the introduction of live streamed council meetings would improve transparency and engagement (65.9 per cent).
Other significant areas of concern included coastal erosion, waste management, the condition and maintenance of roads, and “the appropriateness of planning decisions leading to reduction in amenity and uniqueness of township character,” BCRRA said.
Respondents expressed support for works undertaken so far to mitigate coastal erosion, council’s rejection of the latest Mahers Landing development proposal, improvements to recreational and sports facilities, and COVID-19 support initiatives.
BCRRA spokesperson Andrew Marston said the survey results had been sent to council, along with the following recommendations:
- Improve transparency by increasing feedback to the community and publishing criteria and KPIs used to make decisions on council website.
- Continue live streaming of council meetings after the six-month trial period. • Consider rate relief in lieu of deferral for extreme hardship.
- Continually review the quality and the method of community engagement.
- Maintain a focus on basic services.
- Ensure ratepayers receive best value available for money.
- Continue strong advocacy for urgent government assistance to remediate coastal erosion.
Bass Coast Shire Council CEO Ali Wastie last Friday said council had not received a summary of the survey from BCRRA. **
After being supplied with the results, Ms Wastie told the Sentinel- Times, council acknowledged the feedback and would follow up in some of the matters raised directly with the association, however, also noted the “relatively small” number of survey respondents and lack of detail on who they included.
“With any survey, it is important to understand the demographics including age, gender and location, especially when the survey was open to everyone including non- Bass Coast Shire residents,” Ms Wastie said.
She defended council’s track record of “listening to the community,” highlighting consultation on the Smiths Beach Town Plan, Climate Change Action Plan 2020-2030, off-leash beach areas, and the Bass Coast Living Young Plan 2020-24, as well as live Facebook Q&A sessions, and improvements in the consultation and engagement score in the Local Government Performance Reporting Framework.
“Council has been continuously focused on improving our transparency and community engagement since we were elected and believe there have been some significant improvements made,” Ms Wastie said.
Advocacy work based on community engagement had proven to be very successful, too, she said, bringing millions of dollars of grant funding into the shire this year for projects such as the Guide Park and Dalyston Netball Court redevelopments, and the establishment of a Bass Coast University Centre.
“We acknowledge that we can always improve on our processes, however, it is challenging when there are divided views on a particular topic or issue,” Ms Wastie said.
** Council later confirmed receiving the survey on August 12th 2020