Council media under fire

FREMANTLE city council’s communications strategy has taken a battering in its latest survey of ratepayers.

Mayor Brad Pettitt says he’s taking some heart that residents’ attitudes towards the council are improving—surveys in recent years have been terrible—but results still lag behind other councils across most areas.

Communications is its worst-performing sector: its reputation for transparency is almost 10 points behind the industry average and 23 points behind the best-regarded council.

It does slightly better with consultation, though comments from some of the 404 residents surveyed show there’s still a way to go: “I’d like them to focus on … listening to … the community and not the developers,” one said.

“The council don’t have a good consultative process, their minds are already made up,” said another.

When asked where they sourced their local information—and without being prompted—70 per cent nominated the Fremantle Herald.

That’s a problem for the council because—as punishment for our independent journalism—it severely limits advertising with us, cutting itself off from most of its constituents. Just 36 per cent of respondents nominated the council’s preferred outlet, the News Corporation/7-West-owned Gazette: worse, the council’s weekly Newsbites ad in the Gazette was nominated by just three per cent.

On a positive note, respondents feel they’re getting better value for money from rates, with the council approaching levels of satisfaction close to where it was a decade ago.

Attitdues towards festivals and events were very positive—topping the survey—and were also very high about the library and Fremantle Arts Centre. Following construction of the universally-praised Esplanade youth plaza, folk are 20 per cent happier about facilities for youth and 10 per cent happier about facilities for people with disabilities. Attitudes about the council’s environmental management are also good.

“It’s always pleasing to see community survey results come back that show improvements in most areas, but we still have a long way to go in terms of where we want Fremantle to be as world-leading, vibrant, sustainable and livable city,” Dr Pettitt says.

He says ratepayers want the council to continue to work on improving the city’s economy, parking and anti-social behaviour.

He says planning initiatives have paved the way for $1.3 billion in investment, but as most of that’s still going through processes it isn’t reflected in the results.

by STEVE GRANT

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