OPINION: Public satisfaction
COUNCIL isn't in business to keep lots of money in the bank or to show large annual cash profits.
The profit is in having our roads and bridges in good shape, our community feeling safe from natural disasters, adequate planning for our future population, less congestion on our roads, suitable and affordable housing and enough bikeways, footpaths and sporting fields.
This is all measured not by the size of the bank account but by community satisfaction.
In the last community satisfaction survey, overall 69% of residents were at least 'somewhat satisfied' with Council's performance.
Despite being consistent with the previous survey, satisfaction in Byron Shire is lower than the Micromex Benchmarks for all of NSW, metropolitan and regional councils.
According to the last Byron Shire Community Satisfaction Research prepared by Micromex Research BSC is down 2.91 points while overall regional satisfaction is up 3.22.
Council isn't delivering on community expectations, in fact we are amongst the worst in the state and Councillors' recent near unanimous decision requesting to have our remuneration package increased, beggars belief.
We need to spend more money to build satisfaction, so sound financial management is critical.
I am concerned about Byron Shire Council's capacity to deliver a significantly increased spend on infrastructure.
For a long time we have been restricted by short term thinking becoming very short sighted and hesitant to show anything other than a "what's in it for me” attitude.
To address the issues the majority of the community are concerned about we need to up the tempo. We need to remain focused on gaining funding from all sources in a climate where competition for government support is becoming more challenging. This is especially so when the funding authorities see Byron council as the least satisfying council (for its community) in the state.
Making sure we utilise every council owned asset to return as much as possible and to ensure we are capitalising on opportunities to get as much buying power for our inputs to enable this increased spend is paramount.
The three main areas we need to concentrate on are internal operations, council owned assets and involving our community in more effective consultation.
Currently 40% of the applications for new residences are secondary dwellings for which we cannot receive any annual rates as the rate base is levied on just the land.
This is likely to have major implications for how this shire looks in years to come.
We need to explore new ways to make the experience of interacting with Byron Council, over building applications, is a more productive one.
To many, it is unclear just what information is required by council before they receive an answer to a question or an idea of the cost of a service.
Outcomes may also not be what was expected and it may take too long time to get an outcome from council.
Much of the initial information required from council prior to lodging an application, to do almost anything, could be done on line to reduce cost and staff time.
To develop or find an existing system to do this should be an immediate priority.
Taking steps to reduce the financial bleeding from the Cavanbah Sports centre is an example of an issue we should also pay immediate attention to.
There are very experienced members of our business community who could offer Council assistance with tasks like this and its important to make this a priority.