Shire of Mundaring ratepayers call on Shire to be more efficient to negate rate rise


Mundaring Shire offices. Picture: David Baylis           www.communitypix.com.au   d467434
Mundaring Shire offices. Picture: David Baylis        www.communitypix.com.au d467434

RESIDENTS are calling on Mundaring Shire to become more efficient by reducing administration overheads to find the $1.2 million savings needed to offset a rate rise of 3 per cent.

In a deputation to councillors, they say the average staff costs in the Shire are excessive at $91,000 a year and question why one in four employees has use of a vehicle.

Mt Helena resident John Bell, of Rates Mundaring, said it was unfair to ask people to choose from a pre-selected list of services facing the axe to achieve a lower rate hike.

“We have a chief executive who doesn’t want to reduce administration costs at all, someone who just wants to reduce ratepayer services,” he said.

“I think councillors should be looking at reducing services as a last resort.”

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The semi-retired business consultant said he was one of many residents who found the online survey presented in a ‘closed’ format that directed ratepayers to nominate the services they were prepared to lose rather than an information-gathering exercise.

“There is a presumption consistent throughout the survey that the only way to cut costs is to reduce services, almost an inverse world compared to the real world where overheads would be considered,” he said.

“The Shire has the same top tier overheads as the City of Stirling with one chief executive, four executive directors and four personal assistants,” he said.

Along with costs of maintaining those people, we’re looking at an overhead of $1.6 million to $2 million at best guess a year based on salaries.”

Mr Bell said a 5 per cent efficiency saving on staff costs would deliver a saving of $900,000.

A rate increase of 5 per cent presented in the long-term financial plan was knocked back when councillors asked the Shire to respond to community concerns and aim for a 3 per cent rise in 2017-18.

Shire President David Lavell said the council identified ‘priority areas’ where reduced services could achieve lower rate increases.

“Council is always looking at ways to reduce costs for its ratepayers and to improve efficiencies,” he said.

“But for the time being it is waiting to review results of the current community engagement process regarding the rates and services proposal.”

Mr Lavell said research company Thinkfield selected a demographically representative sample of 400 residents aged 18-plus for the Shire’s ‘have a say’ phone survey.

In response to concern over the sharing of personal information, he said data collected by the company (and the Shire) was protected by the Privacy Act 1988.

“The company contracted to do the survey buy their sample data from Sample Pages,” he said. “They obtain their data from various sources, but they have an option on their homepage to remove numbers from their list.”

“The company doing the survey provide the results of the survey and a summary of the demographic data to the Shire. No identifying or personal data is provided.”

He said the cost of the phone and online survey was $19,350.

Residents are asked to respond to 19 questions. The closing date for the survey is April 18.

Launched by Kara Powell, of Mahogany Creek, the petition will be presented to the Shire calling on councillors to ensure the chief executive ‘meets his personal performance criteria by running an efficient organisation and by sharing services’.

It also seeks reduced administrative overheads rather than services.

WHAT RESIDENTS ARE SAYING

In December of last year, a group of concerned residents attended the electors meeting at the shire offices and insisted they minimise the expected and ever increasing rates levy.

“The purpose of that insistence, from my understanding, was to have them review and reduce the waste of ratepayers’ money first and foremost on the “internal cost” of administration.

“In response, they have suggested to reduce services that ratepayers have, in many instances, already paid for and come to expect as ‘standard’.

“Their proposals are nothing short of a disgrace and appear to be nothing other than a “slap in the face” for those who dared question the viability of the administration and council as a whole. – Kevin McKenna

Having attended many of the Shire meetings, I find it unbelievable the only way the CEO feels costs can be cut is to reduce services to the Shire residents and has no interest in looking at staffing and admin costs. Mundaring Shire wages bill is ridiculously high pro rata to other shires/councils and this needs to be looked at. – Hazel Hey

When faced with pressure to reduce the percentage of year-on-year growth in their rates, the Shire took the selfish approach of listing a number of front-line services for the ratepayers to choose, which they’d be happy to see lost.

There wasn’t a single mention, not the slightest indication at all, they might look internally to find cost saving measures inside their own organisation, their own spending plans or inside their own building.

I think they’d gain a bit more respect by focusing on those, rather than dodging the issue, looking after themselves, and simply sacking a couple of casual-work teenagers at Lake Leschenaultia. – Paul Underwood

My thoughts on this survey are that is badly put together, and very hard for the layman to understand. It seemed to be biased in the way it presented the questions, so that many residents would not fully understand what they were actually choosing.

I worked for many large Survey Companies, before I retired, so I feel I have a better knowledge of how they are put together, and how they can be weighted to give the answer that the client wants.

They would do far better if they sent out people to interview in the street, and shopping centres. This kind of survey needs a face-to-face Q & A to really get to the core of the dissatisfaction in the community. – Averill Robinson