Com­mu­nity sur­vey: calls to cut staff, wages ex­pen­di­ture

Mansfield Courier - - NEWS - By STEVE VI­VIAN

A COM­MU­NITY sur­vey, con­ducted over the past month by Mans­field Shire Coun­cil, has seen the pub­lic iden­tify “cut­ting staff and wages ex­pen­di­ture” as the most pop­u­lar way for coun­cil to make sav­ings, to help ad­dress a fore­cast $700,000 short­fall in the up­com­ing bud­get.

This re­sponse was most pop­u­lar by nearly dou­ble.

Sec­ond in sug­gest­ing sav­ings mea­sures was “don’t know/not sure,” and the third most pop­u­lar re­sponse was “bet­ter time man­age­ment, im­proved ef­fi­ciency and im­proved staff per­for­mance”.

While a ma­jor­ity of peo­ple iden­ti­fied re­duc­tions in staff as their sug­gested fo­cus for coun­cil’s sav­ings, most could not say which par­tic­u­lar ser­vices should be cut.

Coun­cil said this ap­proach is putting the cart be­fore the horse when it comes to mak­ing sav­ings.

Shire chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Alex Green, said he un­der­stands the frus­tra­tion, but re­mains stead­fast in his mes­sage that jobs will not be cut be­fore the com­mu­nity de­cides what ser­vices can trimmed back or done with­out.

“As we have ex­plained dur­ing our Com­mu­nity Con­ver­sa­tion ses­sions, coun­cil is look­ing at mak­ing sav­ings across all pro­grams and ar­eas of ex­pen­di­ture,” Mr Green said.

“But when peo­ple talk about cut­ting staff, be­ing a small or­gan­i­sa­tion, it means cut­ting ser­vices – we can­not de­liver the same ser­vices with fewer staff, it is as sim­ple as that.

“It is a dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tion, the whole com­mu­nity has to talk about what ser­vices can be re­duced,” he said.

Mean­while, coun­cil and the com­mu­nity are not see­ing eye-to-eye on the is­sue, which is a re­al­ity Mr Green hopes can be lev­elled dur­ing the up­com­ing bud­get cool­ing pe­riod.

“Hav­ing said that, our Com­mu­nity Con­ver­sa­tions have been very pos­i­tive,” he said.

“We will work through our bud­get chal­lenges to­gether and coun­cil will fo­cus on the things that are val­ued the most by our com­mu­nity.

“That is why our meet­ings and sur­vey have been so im­por­tant as they have un­der­lined what peo­ple value the most and the strengths we can build upon in the fu­ture”.

The coun­cil said the re­sponse to the sur­vey, which was ef­fec­tively a bud­get and coun­cil plan ques­tion­naire, helped iden­tify a path for­ward be­fore the bud­get is sub­mit­ted.

Shire Mayor Paul Volk­er­ing said coun­cil is de­lighted with the pub­lic re­sponse to its re­cent se­ries of town­ship meet­ings and its com­mu­nity sur­vey fo­cus­ing on the bud­get chal­lenges fac­ing coun­cil, ex­plor­ing ideas about ex­pen­di­ture sav­ings and what ser­vices and fa­cil­i­ties mat­ter most to lo­cals.

“We are in­cred­i­bly pleased with the com­mu­nity’s re­sponse with nearly 200 peo­ple giv­ing us their views - more than 50 peo­ple at­tended our Com­mu­nity Con­ver­sa­tion meet­ings, held in five of our town­ships, and 126 peo­ple com­pleted our on­line sur­vey,” he said.

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