Respondents to Shire of Mundaring rates survey says it was flawed

Mundaring Shire offices. Picture: David Baylis d467434
Mundaring Shire offices. Picture: David Baylis d467434

NEARLY fifteen per cent of ratepayers responding to a recent online survey on what services the Shire of Mundaring should reduce to rein in rate increases claim the survey was flawed.

A further nine per cent claim the questions on the community engagement survey on the Shire of Mundaring’s Rates and Services Proposal were poorly worded.

Half of the respondents also wanted to see additional suggestions considered in the survey to reduce a rates increase, including reducing administrative costs.

Market researcher Thinkfield conducted the survey and in its research findings said respondents showed a willingness to reduce services at the Mahogany Creek Hall, Mt Helena Aquatic Centre and reduce spending on tourism marketing.

Meanwhile respondents showed a medium to high willingness to pay higher rates to retain the Tree Canopy and Understorey Program, the sterilisation rebate, library opening hours and the Trek the Trail event.

However, Rates Mundaring convenor John Bell said he was one of many residents who found the online survey to be presented in a ‘closed’ format that directed ratepayers to nominate the services they were prepared to lose rather than an information-gathering exercise.

“The survey was built on the fundamentally flawed premise that the only way to achieve the budgetary savings was by reducing services,” he said.

“So if the extract of the survey is that the community wishes to cut services then that is not the whole picture and this would have been known when constructing the survey questionnaire.

“I suspect most members of Rates Mundaring would say that the last savings to be made should be by cutting community services.

“Rather there is a sentiment that the Shire should improve their efficiency and reduce their administrative cost.

“There was no option in the survey for people to choose this option, rather it was left to participants to volunteer this as an option and a surprising number did so.”

However, Thinkfield said from the start the survey design gave all respondents the opportunity to share what other ways the Shire should explore in order to control future rate levels.

“Thirty-three per cent of the telephone survey respondents chose that option,” the report said.

“This demonstrates that the ‘other’ option was frequently used and is unlikely to have biased the survey.

“Following data collection all open-ended answers were carefully reviewed, coded into different categories and taken into consideration throughout this report.

“Respondents considered a wide range of further services for reduction with a focus on increasing efficiency and reducing a perceived administrative overhead.”

Other services suggested for reduction were administrative costs, councillor benefits, new infrastructure, rubbish collection, gardening services, community events, Shire cars and street lighting.

Thinkfield said nine per cent of respondents expressed concerns over not understanding some questions and the scales being confusing.

“However there is no evidence this influenced results and lead to a systemic misunderstanding of the survey,” the report said.

“The concerns could be the result of fears that their opinion would not be adequately heard.

“Great care was taken to ensure this was not the case.”

Council will make its final decision on rate and service levels at a special council meeting in July.

Significant changes to take effect as of July 1 are likely to include a reduction in new drainage and footpath programs, the disposal of Mahogany Creek Hall, cancellation of the Trek the Trail event, no rebates for cat or dog sterilisation and the closure of tennis courts in Wooroloo, Chidlow and Mahogany Creek.

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