Majority of ratepayers will ‘dig deep’ - telephone survey

A MAJORITY of Tamworth residents are willing to dig even deeper and pay higher rates in order to improve services and facilities, a new survey has revealed.

The study, commissioned by Tamworth Regional Council (TRC), found 53 per cent of ratepayers supported a hike to meet the future needs of a growing population.

In comparison, 47 per cent of the 609 residents surveyed by telephone in May wanted rates maintained, even if it meant a decline in services and facilities.

The Micromex Research survey also found that 91 per cent of respondents were “at least somewhat satisfied” with council’s performance over the past 12 months.

That figure comfortably exceeds the average for the state’s metropolitan and regional councils, with just 9 per cent of residents “not very satisfied” or “not at all satisfied”.

TRC’s general manager Paul Bennett said he was delighted the council’s first survey of its kind in seven years indicated it was meeting most residents’ expectations.

“It demonstrates the direction that’s been taken by council is pretty much what the community expects its local council to provide,” he said.

“I would look at it and think the community’s saying ‘We think you’re spending the money that you’re getting already OK, so we’re prepared to invest more money to get a higher level of infrastructure and to allow for the growth of the city into the future’.”

The results showed council had exceeded “benchmark satisfaction” in 15 of the 23 surveyed categories and was “slightly below” in five categories.

Ratepayers were most satisfied with council’s management of the library, art gallery, recycling services, sportsgrounds and community buildings.

However, residents were not so pleased with its performance concerning the provision of roads, footpaths, car parking and cycleways.

“The reality for just about every local government in Australia is that there has to be a very open conversation with the community about what their expected service levels are,” Mr Bennett said.

“You can’t serve champagne on a beer budget.”

Ratepayers can expect council to increase its communication with the public after respondents indicated this was a crucial area that could be improved.

“We could spend buckets more money on all those high-cost infrastructure items, but really what this survey’s telling us is the community want to be more engaged,” Mr Bennett said.

“They want more information, they want to know that council’s planning for the future, they want to have a say in the decision-making process.

“That is great from our perspective because we want our community to be engaged with us in determining what their priorities need to be.”

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