As part of a renewed focus on community engagement, the Borough of Queenscliffe opened up our budget processes to the public over four weeks in October and November 2019. The results of this consultation, undertaken by 332 participants, clearly highlighted the priorities of the public and revealed important insights about our community’s priorities for the next financial year.
This report outlines trends and themes from the feedback received, alongside individual examples of participant comments. The detail in this report will be reviewed by Councillors and officers throughout the organisation, both to shape the direction of the 2020-21 Borough of Queenscliffe Budget and to gain a better understanding of community priorities.
This initiative is an innovative new approach to community engagement, and is a step towards the Borough of Queenscliffe’s goal of being a leader in this space. Its success, however, is a result of the participation of our community, and Council thanks everyone who took part for giving their thoughts and time to this engagement. Your voice is helping us create a better Borough.
Participants were asked whether Council should spend more or less on each budget category, including whether Council should spend “a little” or “a lot” more or less. All of these scores were then averaged to understand which categories respondents felt Council should spend more or less on, and how strongly they felt this way.
The below chart shows the distribution of responses by category. Each category shows respondent answers from “spend a lot less” on the left, to “spend a lot more” on the right, with the average value marked by an arrow underneath the bar.
A significant majority of respondents called for Council to spend more on assets, facilities and public spaces and environment and waste.
Planning was the only category where the average participant wanted to slightly reduce spending.
Most participants were happy with Council's spend and direction for our arts and libraries and tourism and business support programs.
Responses to the survey were also tracked by age and resident status.
In the age category, respondents aged between 35 and 69 were overrepresented in providing feedback, while residents aged under 35 and over 70 were underrepresented. Almost two-thirds of respondents were full-time residents of the Borough.
Some trends did emerge when sorting the data demographically. Younger residents (under the age of 50) prioritised environmental projects much more than those older than 50, and similarly shared a greater enthusiasm for parks and outdoor activities. Full-time residents were much more radical with their calls to the budget, suggesting greater spending increases and greater cuts across all categories except tourism.
Results by category
Assets, facilities and public spaces
Respondents overall felt that Council should spend more on assets, facilities and public spaces. This category also received the widest variety of suggestions for projects. Footpaths was a comprehensive leader here, with parks, gardens, weeding and planting not far behind.
Environment and waste
Respondents on average called for a greater spending increase to environment and waste than any other category. Topping the priority list was tree planting, followed by recycling initiatives and seaweed composting.
Planning was the only category in which the average participants suggested Council slightly reduce expenditure. Those who suggested a decrease did so in order to prioritise money for spending in other categories, or because they believed existing planning processes were ineffective.
Arts and libraries
The average score for spending on arts and libraries was almost exactly at 0, suggesting a maintaining of the current expenditure. Respondents showed a strong appreciation for our festivals and libraries and were keen to expansion and improvements to both.
Tourism and business support
Respondents also tended to agree that Council's current spend on tourism and business support was around the mark. Caravan parks was overwhelmingly the most popular category of suggestion, with many unique and detailed comments also suggesting ways to improve Queenscliffe's current tourism offerings.
Balancing the budget
Respondents tended to want Council to find ways to pay for spending increases without increasing revenue measures, with 72% wanting Council to apply for more government grants. Where spending decreases were suggested, more than three quarters of respondents wanted to reinvest these savings into other budget areas.
This tells us that a balanced budget is clearly valued by respondents, but additional spending should only occur if Council can fund these increases without raising additional revenues.
Respondents were asked to nominate which single category should be Council's highest priority for next year's budget. Assets, facilities and public spaces was the leader, closely followed by environment and waste. This is reflective of the trends seen across budget spending suggestions, where these two categories were identified by respondents as priority areas for spending.
Council will use the information in this report to guide key decisions in preparing the 2020–21 budget. Initial work has already started, and a draft budget is expected to be released in April 2020. Residents will then have an opportunity to respond to the draft budget, as well as seeing how their specific feedback from this survey was integrated into the budget.