Roads, libraries and bins: mixed satisfaction scores for Victoria's local councils

By David Donaldson

June 2, 2017

Roads are the biggest sore point for Victorians when it comes to local government, according to a state-wide survey released on Thursday.

At the other end of the scale, libraries and arts centres, waste management and the appearance of public areas were named as the local services that performed best across the state. 66% of respondents rated the performance of libraries and arts centres as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

Councils’ overall performance score has been fairly steady for the past five years, with 45% saying performance was ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

This year’s survey of almost 28,000 Victorians indicates that interface councils — those on Melbourne’s urban fringe where a majority of the state’s population growth is occurring — are performing significantly higher than the state average, while rural councils have the lowest scores.

The 18-34 and 65+ age ranges, metropolitan residents and women tend to be happiest with their council, while rural and middle aged people and men are least satisfied.

There is room for improvement on consultation — 36% said they were happy with their council’s engagement and consultation efforts, five points lower than in 2012.

Roads are a problem for rural residents — only around a quarter said they were satisfied with the condition of unsealed roads, and sealed roads performed just a few points better. Citizens are also sceptical whether councils are making decisions in the best interests of the community, with only 35% of respondents agreeing that performance had been ‘good’ or ‘very good’ on this metric.

And in good news for the Victorian government, which has a rate capping system in place, the survey showed that if forced to choose more residents prefer to see service cuts to maintain council rates at current levels (50%) than rate rises to improve local services (31%). The number in favour of cuts has risen from 44% in 2012.

The survey is conducted annually by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on behalf of 68 participating councils. A minimum of 400 local residents and ratepayers in each municipality over 18 years of age are selected at random.

Cheekily, the supplied infographic tallies exclude ‘don’t know/can’t say’ responses, skewing the results.

Pictured: the Geelong library.

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