Community survey: calls to cut staff, wages expenditure
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.