People reject privatisation, want government services

A LANDMARK survey has shown that 93% of people want government to provide services at all levels rather than the private sector.

Funded by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government at the University of Technology, Sydney, the survey also found that most Australians believed their local council was best-placed to make decisions about their area.

The survey asked more than 2000 people why local government mattered.

It found 75% of respondents believed councils were the best group to make decisions about their local region, compared with 26% for state governments and just 2% for the Commonwealth.

ACELG director Roberta Ryan described the survey as the first comprehensive study of community attitudes to local governments.

Councils were the biggest employer in 60 regional areas, while nationally, local government employed some 200,000 people, she wrote on The Conversation.

The view of councils as being confined to "roads, rates and rubbish" was long gone in practice and expectations. About 61% of those surveyed wanted more than "basic services" from the government.

"Residents don't just want the rubbish collected and a local pool - they want a sense of community. They expect councils to deliver events and services that help build one," Ms Ryan wrote.

Half of those surveyed were prepared to pay more taxes for more services, but about 23% disagreed with that proposition.

A remarkable 93% also wanted to be involved in the decisions affecting services in their community.

And people seem to know their councils pretty well, with 75% of those surveyed able to name their local council and 50% able to name their mayor.

"We think good decisions are best made by involving communities, experts and government together in the process," Ms Ryan said.

She said the survey showed those people using services had the best knowledge of what services were needed and how they should be delivered.

The survey forms part of a larger report on councils expected to be released later this year.