Local refuse and recycling services are valued the highest among council services, according to the results of a new survey, which also warns people are beginning to see a decline in local services.

A survey, conducted by Survation on behalf of the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), found waste and Recycling services are the areas that the public had the highest satisfaction score with road maintenance rated the lowest.

People also ranked support for other council services, like school meals, local council leisure facilities such as swimming pools, gyms and playing fields and parks.

Another top priority for investment is local roads, and the public want to see more spent on improvements, such as reducing the amount of pot holes.

However, APSE warns that the public are now starting to see the impact of austerity, with a sizeable chunk of survey respondents reporting a decline in their local services, with the majority of councils just about managing to keep much-valued local services going.

“Local spending is proven to be a great way to bolster economic activity in local areas, so clearly there is an awful lot of good to come from leveraging more local investment through trusted council neighbourhood services.”

According to the survey, people are most likely to see this decline as the fault of both the Government and local Councils combined (44%), whilst only a quarter (27%) see this as being caused by Government cuts alone.

Out Of Step

APSE suggests the results of the survey show Chancellor Philip Hammond is out of step with local voters, with over three quarters of the public calling for more money to be spent locally, rather than on super infrastructure schemes.

In the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced additional borrowing of £23bn over the next five years to invest in infrastructure, but the public appear to want more of that money leveraged on local projects.

People are 8 times more likely to trust local councillors to make decisions on their behalf over and above MPs and Government Ministers. Furthermore, 5 times more people trust councils over and above Government to make the best decisions on their behalf. There is a lack of trust in private providers as well; the public are 6 times more likely to trust council-run services over and above private contractors brought in to run council services.

The survey suggests that the public would welcome localised infrastructure investment. APSE is calling for a new industrial strategy to recognise the importance of local – and not just national – infrastructure investment, including local area investment to help rebalance jobs, skills and local economic growth.

Speaking about the survey findings, APSE Chief Executive Paul O’Brien said “Whilst the extra infrastructure spending promised by the Chancellor is welcome in areas like housing and roads, it is clear that the public want to see more money going to local areas.

“Local spending is proven to be a great way to bolster economic activity in local areas, so clearly there is an awful lot of good to come from leveraging more local investment through trusted council neighbourhood services.”

Budget Cuts

The survey, conducted by specialist market research firm Survation, sourced results from the public with a sample size of 1500 respondents in November 2016 from across the UK, and followed robust polling industry standards.

Since 2010, local councils, in some areas, have faced up to 40% of cuts to budgets. The survey was designed to draw out public perceptions of council ‘Neighbourhood Services’ in an age of austerity for local government.

Whilst councils are now able to raise a further 2% in council tax to fund social care, this is not enough in many areas, APSE says. This has left other council neighbourhood-based services, like parks, refuse and recycling, pothole repairs and street cleaning, to suffer a larger proportion of cuts overall.

Government has committed in the Autumn Statement to an additional £23bn in infrastructure investment, but no additional money has been made available to local council services generally, although the Autumn Statement has offered some additional prime funding in areas like housing and pot hole repairs.

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