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Dodging the Real Issue

Manningham Council completed another 'Community Satisfaction Survey'. Please see pages 2180 to 2194 of the minutes for 28 July 2015.

Some 12 months ago, a similar survey was done. At the time, I made the comment that council satisfaction surveys are similar to those done in the private sector. There, surveys are really about justifying and preserving your job. I commented that  Manningham council is, in this regard, no different to the private sector.

Also 12 months ago I also commented that Manningham Council failed to ask one very important question, possibly the most important question. It was this, "Do you think you are getting value for the money you pay to the Council?"

Then, as now, Manningham Council simply refuse to put that question to the ratepayers.

I think they probably didn't want to hear the answer because we all have a good idea what the majority of replies would be.

Many of us have observed how the council and council staff work, how poor they are at managing people and how poor they are at managing costs. We all pay the very high council rates each year. And we have to accept the 4 to 8% increases in our rates each year -- while salaries in the private sector go up around 2% each year.

I think Manningham Council would have a pretty good idea how many ratepayers would view them and I think they certainly don't want to be to told that in writing.

 

Instead we get a 'Leading' Question.

Instead Manningham Council asked a slightly different, but related question. It was this,

"Would you like to see rate rises or see cuts in council services to keep rates at the same level?" (Please see point 1.20 on page 2183 of the minutes.)

Even though this question is worded so that it would lead people to a particular response, do you know how ratepayers actually responded to this question?

We read that 22% of ratepayers were prepared to accept cuts in Manningham Council services to keep the rates from going up. That is one in five ratepayers. And only 12% of respondents wanted to see rates increase. So essentially,

  • One in five ratepayers want to see no further increase in annual council rates.

  • One in five ratepayers think that we already pay enough (or possibly too much in rates).

  • A much smaller number wanted to see rates increase.

Manningham council simply did not want to hear this. The company that conducted the survey knew this and watered down the impact of this particular reply for them.

Please see how the response to this question was minimized in the report. Please see page 2194 of the minutes for 28 July 2015. It reads:

When looking at the rate/service trade off, more than one in five residents (22%) would definitely prefer service cuts to rate rises compared to only 12% who would definitely prefer rate rises.

That said, this preference for service cuts has fallen three points since 2014 and is also lower than the state wide (26%) and the Metropolitan group average of (25%).

  • So we see it has gone down from last year when it was 25% or one in four people who did not want to see rates increase.

  • It is less than the state average which is 26%. (Which is even worse).

  • And it is less than the metropolitan average of 25% (One in four people)

So Manningham Council needn't feel so bad now that only just less than one in five people want no more rate rises.

So Manningham council now can -- and will -- safely ignore this survey result.

Manningham council goes to a great deal of trouble and expense to survey residents when they think the result will be of use to them. They did this for the Mullum Mullem Highball Facility and were careful to play up the responses of those in favor of the facility and downplay those who opposed it. This was because they wanted to build the highball facility.

However, the response even to this leading question about rate increases was not that welcome. Responses like this will never be taken seriously and certainly will never be allowed to change council policy.

Manningham Council knows they can not keep rates constant, even if 100% of ratepayers answered by saying the wanted to see no further rate rises.

 

Manningham can NEVER keep rates constant.

May I tell you why?

Council staff get an annual pay increase of between 3.1% to 3.4% (depending on which document you read). This happens automatically each year as part of their enterprise bargaining agreement. Their pay increase is not performance based. All they need to do to get this pay increase each year is show up at work. Council pay packages are simply going to keep increasing around this rate each year.

If council were to keep rates constant, then each year they would have to cut back on the services they provide and use the money saved to pay for the increase in their salaries.

Currently staff salary is around 52% of the rates and waste charges collected (but 39% of total revenue). If  rate  bills were to remain constant, that percentage would start to creep up while services would decrease. Soon we would see 60%, 70% or 80% of our rates go to pay staff while services would be dramatically reduced.

Then Manningham Council would have a real problem on their hands.

Ratepayers would then start to ask, why on earth do we have all those people in the council and they do so little for us?

Manningham council's self interest would soon become very obvious to a great many people.

Off course, that must never be allowed to happen.

Residents might also start to suggest, why don't they lay off some staff?

And that would terrify Manningham Council.

Lay off staff. Never! All council staff are entitled to easy lifetime jobs followed by an incredibly generous ratepayer funded pension at the end.

Council staff are never laid off. That is unthinkable. Who would be fired and who would remain? The stress and tension would simply traumatize Manningham Council.

That also must never be allowed to happen.

This is why council rates must increase between 4% to 8% per year and most of the rate increase, as I have shown in other articles on this site, has to go to pay for the staff annual pay increases.

 

And this is why Manningham Council has to ignore the response they got even to the leading question they were prepared to ask.

Also it is why Manningham council can never ask ratepayers genuine questions about 'value for money' without playing some type of game such as redefining what is meant by 'value', which is common tactic of theirs.

Manningham Council needs to appear to be interested in the issue of 'value for money' and the ever increasing rate burden on the public - but also needs to avoid it. Otherwise take home pay and jobs will be effected.

 

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