Community survey reflects positively on Council

INDEPENDENT research shows that Brighton ratepayers continue to view their Council positively and want to see it remain as a stand-alone municipality.

The research was conducted in response to the State Government’s encouragement of councils to consult with ratepayers over its call to consider voluntary local government amalgamation proposals.

As well as consulting on the council merger issue, Brighton also sought ratepayers’ views on Council’s overall performance and the services it provides.

The research was conducted by Myriad Research to provide Brighton Council with an independent and objective assessment of community perceptions and preferences in relation to a range of merger options and other associated issues.

The research outcomes will directly inform Council’s planning and response to the State Government’s ‘Voluntary Amalgamations Program’, including the undertaking of relevant feasibility studies.

A telephone survey of the local community was conducted during May 2015.  The total survey sample of 404 respondents provided statistically valid outcomes for the target population – Brighton Council residents aged 18 years and over.

The survey sample broadly reflected the demographic profile of the Brighton municipality.

Myriad said the survey response shows a significant increase in residents’ positive perception of Brighton Council performance between 2010 and 2015.

The researchers said Council’s performance was most likely to be endorsed by Brighton residents and seniors (those in the 60+ age group).  Bridgewater residents and younger respondents were more likely to give this aspect a lower rating (but still overall positive).

The survey asked respondents what they felt Council did best in terms of the provision of facilities, services and programs for the local community, and where improvements were needed.

Beautification of the local area and facilities provided are more likely to be mentioned as positive aspects of Council performance.  Recreation and activities for young people, waste management, rates, as well as activities for seniors, are also seen as positives by local residents.

Improvements to local roads and footpaths are clearly the one area where residents believe action is most needed – reflecting a similar result for this question in 2010. The survey provided examples as a reference for follow-up action and Council will take this on board.

The survey asked residents if they were aware of any discussion about potential council mergers, with just over half of the survey sample (51 per cent) reported being aware of council merger discussions.

Respondents were asked for their preferred option in relation to four possible merger scenarios and the clear preference is for no change to the status quo. Brighton remaining as a stand alone, independent municipality is supported by 60 per cent of survey respondents. The support for the status quo increases with respondent age group – 68 per cent of the 60+ age group; 58 per cent of those 40 – 59; and 55 per cent of those under 40.

A similar question was posed to residents of the Brighton Municipality in 1997 and the two survey results showing little change in community attitudes. Some 18 years on from the initial survey, residents’ support for the status quo has strengthened 53 per cent to 60 per cent in favour.

Support for a greater rural council has dropped significantly over the two survey periods but when combined with the option to merge with a neighbouring council (not offered in the earlier survey) the level of support for this option is similar to the 1997 result – in total around 30 per cent.

Just eight per cent of respondents were in favour of a gGreater Hobart urban council to incorporate the urban areas of the Brighton municipality.

Acting Mayor Barbara Curran said the research was valuable and provided clear advice to Council on the amalgamation issues and also on a range of other community views.

“We will certainly note the areas that ratepayers would like given some attention and also consider the positive suggestions made in the survey,” Cr Curran said.