1:19 PMThe 2016 Satisfaction Survey
Every year Manningham council participates in a Community Satisfaction Survey.
I have commented on the two prior surveys, but this year, I just had to laugh.
Please see the 'Results of Local Government Community Satisfaction Survey' tabled at the 28 June 2016 Meeting of council.
So what is so humorous?
"Lets Not Upset the Council".
A private company is contracted to perform these surveys. They seem to have the view that no matter what the residents say, they must not report it in a way that upsets the council.
What I mean is this. If the community consistently responds in a way that reflects poorly on Manningham Council, then the private company, in their report, seems to always find a way to either put a positive spin on it or to otherwise minimize it.
Some might say they just being nice. Maybe not. Nearly always when Manningham council is rated poorly, you find them providing some positive support to Manningham Council.
It makes me wonder why Manningham Council even participates in this survey if they find it difficult to listen to the community responses.
Interestingly, the council gives this reason why it participates in this survey.
So these surveys are not primarily a matter of listening to ratepayer feedback and perceptions. Rather they help the council with their statutory reporting requirements to the state government and to Local Government Victoria (which is part of the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure).
In other words, these surveys help the council report back to their bosses in the state government. (These reports are required by law.)
But just a minute. Does Manningham council want to listen to what we have to say?
Some Examples Please.
First, let us see how does this private company sugar coats information that might not be that welcome at Manningham Council.
Here are some examples:
It seems that this private company does not want to put Manningham Council on the spot over it's poorer than expected performance rating.
They sugar coat the report by saying 'while results are down, they are still better than other councils' or 'the change is not that significant' (I assume by this they mean 'statistically significant').
But let me ask you this. If a council is concerned about continual improvement, which Manningham is, then should such a decrease in perceived performance be dismissed so easily?
Shouldn't a decrease in perceived performance be a cause for concern because it might show that real performance has actually decreased, there could be issues with staff attitudes or problems with procedures and standards not being followed. Shouldn't this be of concern to the management of Manningham council?
You would think it would.
But the council doesn't seem that concerned. How do I know this?
First, Manningham Council were quick to pick up on the report's assessment and then to find an additional reason to dismiss the results.
This is what they said in their minutes about this survey. It has been taken almost word for word from the survey report.
We see they were quick to quote the rationalization for the poor results offered by the private company in the report. Then they also found an additional reason to not be that concerned about the result.
So Manningham council reason that "we are still better than most other councils" and "other neighbouring councils have also experienced a decrease in perceived performance".
So Manningham Council suggest to themselves that they needn't be that worried about the poorer than expected results.
But again I suggest that if you are interested in continual improvement, which Manningham is, then there is no reason at all to take comfort in either of these statements. At a bare minimum you probably should investigate the results and ask how you can improve your operations and improve customer perceptions.
Results that are not entirely welcome.
Lets take a look at one community response that Manningham Council simply did not want to hear.
The question was asked, would you prefer to have a reduction is council services and a freeze on council rates?
This year, as well as last year, saw the community respond with an overwhelming YES. "We are prepared to accept a reduction in services so we can have a freeze on any increase in council rates".
Now, if you know Manningham Council, they simply don't want to hear things like this - ever. And they certainly do not want to have it put in writing with backing from the community.
It appears the private company doing the survey is also aware of this and this is how they presented the survey data:
I don't know about you, but I think the particular type of chart the private company chose to present these statistics, somehow takes away from the force of the community response.
Let me give you a different way of showing the exact same results for the first three lines of the above chart.
Here we can see clearly that a large majority of Manningham residents want a freeze on rate increases and are prepared to forgo council services to achieve this. I think the results in my chart are very clear and also make the point where this trend is going for 2016.
However Manningham council simply does not want to hear of rate freezes or reductions. And I think the company doing the survey is doing the council a service by slightly obscuring the community response to this question.
So how did Manningham Council respond regarding this issue?
Yes, Manningham council recognizes that the community response is significant and even above the Metropolitan average but what is interesting is there is no further emphasis put on this response. There is no action to be taken nor a plan to look into it. There is no interest why a majority of residents would respond in this way. There is no desire to understand. There is just a plain statement of the numbers.
How does Manningham Council Respond to the Survey?
How does Manningham Council Respond to the Survey overall? Are they interested in what we the people have to say?
First lets see what the private company doing the survey has to say about the purpose of the survey:
The private company sees the purpose of the survey to assess the performance of the council in the eyes of the rate-paying public. Possibly the council shares their view?
But just a minute. That could be out of character for Manningham Council.
If you have read other articles on this web site, you will see several examples I give where Manningham Council holds community consultation or feedback sessions regarding their plans, developments, projects, etc.
What we see consistently is the council use these sessions to dismiss all objections over what they plan to do. When residents lodge objections formally to council plans, we read in the minutes, page after page of council responses that dismiss residents concerns. And sometimes we see worse. In particular with the Mullum Mullum Highball Stadium project, we saw the council take a very dim view of residents who opposed their plans and suggest their motives and actions were less than proper and decent.
What we see these community consultation sessions turn into, is an exercise in not listening and ensuring Manningham Council gets their way.
So let us consider carefully how Manningham Council responds to the survey.
First, what does the private company recommend?
And what does the council say they will do?
So the council 'notes' the survey results. That is very good of them -- whatever 'note' means.
We seen again that there was no referral to any group or committee to study the results and recommend or make changes to council standards or procedures. No one is asked to take charge of the matter and make recommendations and/or then implement those recommendations. There is no plan put in place to improve the perceptions of ratepayers so they will improve their score next year.
No. It is simply left to individual managers to 'note' it and take whatever action they think need be done.
Don't hold your breath for a rate freeze.
In fact, I wouldn't hold my breath for any changes to come about in Manningham Council as a result of these surveys.
These surveys provide a cheap and quick way of satisfying the council's reporting obligations to the state government and Local Government Victoria and that is about it.
This show they put on each year of 'listening to ratepayers' appears to be just a pantomime.
From the way the council responds, what you or I have to say or request doesn't really matter.
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