VINCENT city council has just been voted Perth’s most popular council by its ratepayers.
In an incredible turnaround from 2010 when its performance was so low a former council quipped “we’ve tanked”, Vincent hit the top spot in 18 out of 47 categories in an annual survey that pits it against 25 other metropolitan councils.
The Catalyse survey found that 71 per cent of residents were now happy with the council’s leadership (about half saying it was “excellent” and the other half “good”, compared with just 37 per cent in 2010 (“abysmally low”, moaned former councillor Dudley Maier at the time).
In the divisive planning area, the percentage of disgruntled voters has dropped from 51 to 33.
It’s the second bit of good news for the council that the Voice picked up this week. On a state-controlled website which rates and compares councils, Vincent’s financial health was found to have almost doubled within a year. In the 2013/14 financial year, the council’s financial health was rated 40 out of 100, almost half the state average. By 2014/15 it had streaked past that mark, although it’s still a fraction behind the metropolitan average at 78/100.
Mayor John Carey, who took over in 2013 and ushered in new CEO Len Kosova in 2014, says “we’ve made a concerted effort to reform this organisation” but adds “we must consistently do better”.
“It was clear when I became mayor that there were significant issues within the organisation in how we engage and respond to the community, the way we did things, and to move away from this idea that just because we’ve always done something the same way doesn’t justify us to continue to do that.
“This is a vindication of the reform program we’ve been doing at Vincent, and it’s not over. We’re not resting on our laurels, there’s a lot of work to be done and we need to do better.”
Mr Carey says “this is a sign that the previous era, back in 2010, is now dead and buried,” describing the council of the day as “heavily factionalised”.
“We are never going back to that era and the community won’t let us.”
Geraldine Box has been a resident for decades and has worked with a few different regimes at Vincent over the years through sitting on the Integrated Transport Advisory Group.
She says it wasn’t always easy getting your voice heard: “The council in the past few years has been about getting the community connected, drawing people out from different communities so we feel like we’re part of the story… you can ring up the mayor, you can talk to the admin. It certainly wasn’t like that in any of the councils I experienced beforehand.”
Geoff Cooper’s also lived in the area for decades, but got more involved during the amalgamation campaign a couple years back. He remembers “there was an awful long time when you wouldn’t see or hear anything from councillors”.
The council still has some weak areas including public toilets, traffic and planning approvals.
by DAVID BELL