Newcastle City Council hammered in survey

Newcastle City Council has flunked a major community survey that shows 66per cent of residents think the organisation is not doing an adequate job.

The Newcastle Voice survey of almost 1000 residents shows the city lags significantly behind Victorian councils, which are on average more than twice as popular in their communities.

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Town planning, traffic management and parking, roads and footpaths, economic development, advocacy, and community engagement were areas where the city did not earn a pass mark.

As council general manager Phil Pearce briefed councillors last night, the organisation released a summary of results and a statement that conceded the 34per cent score for overall performance was ‘‘below the mark’’.

The statement said the results ‘‘show varying satisfaction levels for council’s facilities, services and performance’’.

The survey will be used by the council as part of an organisational review due to be concluded later this year.

Mr Pearce, who took over at the council midway through last year, has previously said he would take 18 months to assess the organisation before committing to major staff changes or a restructure.

Areas marked ‘‘high priority’’ include long-term city planning and vision, which topped a list of 32 community priorities, but second-last in terms of council performance.

The council’s management of Newcastle CBD received the bottom performance mark from the community.

Other top priorities for the council include community involvement in decision making, informing residents about council activities, greening and tree preservation, building and asset maintenance and management of residential development.

In part, the poor results have been put down to a rocky period for the council, that has included the Laman Street figs saga, political infighting among councillors, financial difficulties and the troubled rollout of a three-bin system.

Mr Pearce said in the 12 months before the March survey, the council faced ‘‘22 major issues that were being reported negatively’’.

There are some positives, particularly with the bin system, which overcame early troubles to save ratepayers $864,000 since introduction.

Waste management was one of the areas where the council passed the community’s approval test, with 64per cent of people rating the service as adequate or better.

Other areas to receive a mostly positive review were recreational facilities, enforcement of local laws, and the appearance of public areas.

Youth facilities have improved in the eyes of the community, compared with a similar survey from 2008.

Mr Pearce said he would have liked a higher overall score, but accepts ‘‘this is how the community views council at this point in time’’.

“The community has spoken and we are listening and will use this feedback to improve our performance.”

Mr Pearce said staff morale measured ‘‘very low’’ in focus group sessions held earlier this year, partly due to the high volume of change within the council over the past few years.

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