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Community Survey Scams

Maribyrnong City Council has earned a good performance rating from its community this year - despite facing outrage over high rates, creating angry division in the community over a Footscray Park development, putting up a fence sign on the same park that cost $237,000, conducting a secret review that gave the CEO a payrise and outsourcing in-home care for its elderly residents.

6.9 out of 10.

How is this possible?

Well, for a start, because none of the above were even mentioned in the official survey.

And secondly, because the survey isn’t for residents.

It isn’t even for Councillors.

It’s for the Council and the Local Government boffins.

Under Local Government Victoria (LGV) regulations, Councils are forced to conduct a community satisfaction survey every year. In Victoria, 30 Councils out of 79 pay consultants, Metropolis Research to conduct their surveys.

From the report:

"The survey meets the requirements of the Local Government Act 1989, by providing importance and satisfaction ratings for major Council services and facilities, as well as satisfaction scores for Council overall. It also meets the requirement of the Local Government Performance Reporting Framework."

Here’s what the 2019 report says about Maribyrnong City Council:

“Satisfaction with the performance of Council across all areas of responsibility increased for the third consecutive year, up three percent this year to 6.92. This increase was not statistically significant and satisfaction remains at a level best categorised as “good”. This result is now measurably higher than the long-term average of 6.51. This is the highest level of satisfaction with Council’s overall performance recorded since the survey program commenced in 2004.

This result was almost identical to the 2019 metropolitan Melbourne average of 6.93 and the IMAP councils’ average of 6.99, as recorded in Governing Melbourne, which is an independent survey of 1,200 residents drawn from across all 31 metropolitan Melbourne municipalities.”

Wow. Council must be feeling very happy with itself.

And Councillors must feel relieved.

Looking at it from my perspective : as a resident I’ve just paid a consultant to ask me how well Council is doing their job and although I think Council’s getting worse, there’s an official report that says Council is doing better.

If you live in MCC (or perhaps other Councils with similar survey results) you may be wondering how they got a good rating.

Well, for a start, it doesn’t ask what’s actually happening in the community.

Here are the 3 key issues for the 2019 survey:

  • Diversity, culture and community

  • Attendance, awareness and access to festivals and arts/culture

  • Waste and recycling.

Yep. These are the big issues residents are talking about on social media, and footpaths and school drop-offs and supermarket aisles. Metropolis has nailed it.

It’s not all the fault of Metropolis. They are paid to do a job. It’s just that residents are paying the invoice but the boss is the Executive Director of Local Government Victoria so the survey is all about the information he wants to impress his boss - the Minister for Local Government.

It doesn’t provide any useful information for residents.

In fact it’s rather insulting to residents.

Not only does it deliberately avoid asking questions about issues that are important for residents - it then presents ‘official’ results to show us our Council is doing a great job, when we know from our own experience, that is not true.

Any Councillor with half a conscience should scan this report and get an uneasy feeling.

But in presenting it to Council, the staff point out that the survey is a legislated requirement and part of the official performance reporting framework.

So Councillors pass it.

They don’t have to. They can vote against it.

They can move a motion to end the consultant reports.

They can move a motion to set up a task force to design a new survey, with staff, Councillors and residents, that will accurately assess the performance of Council every year, so staff and Councillors and residents can reflect each year, and measure improvements.

Then Council would be living its values, instead of mocking them.

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