THE community's opinion of Ararat Rural City Council is on an upward trajectory after it dipped in 2018 to its lowest point in five years.
The annual community satisfaction survey was recently released and assesses community perception of a council's performance based on at least 400 interviews with community members.
The survey is overseen by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on behalf of Victorian councils.
Ararat still ranks low compared to the overall performance score for small rural councils, receiving a score of 49 compared to 58.
The scores are indexed out of 100.
However, the Ararat figure represents a 12-point improvement on the 2018 result.
Last year saw state-wide criticism focused on the council when then-mayor Glenda McLean accepted a job in Queensland and said she planned to be a 'fly-in, fly-out mayor,' forcing the council to perform a vote count back to replace her.
The council was also still dealing with the fall-out over its ratings strategy and a Commission of Inquiry into the council's governance in 2017.
The top three performing areas for council in 2019 were arts centres and libraries, emergency and disaster management, and the appearance of public spaces.
Conversely, the top three areas for improvement were unsealed roads, community decisions and sealed local roads.
Chief executive Tim Harrison, who joined the council in late 2018, said the increased score was encouraging.
"The survey results are heartening and I am really glad to see that the community appreciates the work we have done so far," he said.
"But I am acutely aware the council still has a long way to go to improve its work outputs, financial stability and overall standing in the community.
"The organisational changes that have taken place since the survey interviews were completed coupled with the 2019/2020 Budget will better focus our attention and resources on issues of great importance to the community such as local roads and advocacy.
"I would like to acknowledge the hard work of Council staff, which has contributed to this improvement."
Dr Harrison said Ararat's best improvements came in the overall direction of the council with a score of 55, up from 29 in 2018, and customer service score of 69, up from 56 in 2018.
The survey found a highly varied perception of council across different demographics.
In Lake Bolac, for example, residents rated council's overall performance significantly lower than average at 29.
Those aged between 34 and 49 years tended to give the council the lowest rating across a number of areas, while those aged 65 years and above tended to rate council's performance much more favourably.
The report also found community decisions held greater influence on perception than something like the appearance of public areas.
Decisions made in the community interest did improve on the 2018 score of 33 to a 2019 figure of 46.
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