John Denham: Survey signals time to strengthen local government

Published 23 June 2009

A major new national survey on what people think of their local area and council demonstrates the importance of renewing local democracy, said Communities Secretary John Denham today.

Mr Denham said the results of the Place Survey - based on more than 500,000 people's views and perceptions about where they live - demonstrates the importance of listening to local people and what they want for their local area.

The vast majority of people (80 per cent) are happy with their area as a place to live. In recent years, measurable improvements have been made in local services in most areas, backed by a 39 per cent increase in investment in the ten years from 1997/98.

But less than half of people say they are satisfied with their local council. And while a quarter of people feel they can influence local decisions, as many again would like to be more involved.

Mr Denham said:

"This survey gives us an important and comprehensive insight in to what people think of where they live and their local authorities. The good news is that most people are generally positive about where they live and their quality of life. However, the improvements we've seen in local services are not being reflected in people's perception of their council.

"There is a challenge here for both local and central government. I want to see local councils do more - and gain more power - to shape the services offered in their area. There is an untapped demand for local people to have more say in what goes on.

"Improving services is a good end in its own right, but it needs to be matched by increased public satisfaction and increased confidence in local councils.

"The opportunity for councils to gain new powers in future will depend on increasing public confidence in their role as well as the efficient and responsive delivery of services."

As part of the Government's wider drive to personalise services around the needs of the individual, CLG is taking forward the Total Place project. The pilot project is being tested in 13 areas and will reveal how all public money is being spent on services in those places, what it is delivering, and how expenditure can be better shaped around what people want.

Today's first ever national Place Survey shows responses from over half a million people aged 18 or over from all across the country to questions about their local community, the public services they receive, their views on their councils, and how engaged they feel in decisions affecting their lives.

 The headline findings of the survey were:

  • 80 per cent are satisfied with their local area as a place to live
  • 45 per cent were, taking everything into account, satisfied with the way their local council runs things
  • 33 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that their local council provided value for money
  • 29 per cent felt they could influence decisions in their local area
  • 27 per cent would like to be more involved in decisions affecting their community
  • In the last 12 months, 14 per cent of the population had been involved in local decision making

Notes to editors

1. The Place Survey is a major national survey of what the public think of where they live and their local council. It is a key way of assessing public perceptions and one way that government is checking whether councils are meeting their performance targets. The survey is available at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/statistics/placesurvey2008

2. The Place Survey supplies the data by which 18 National Indicators will be measured. The national indicators will measure how well Governments' priorities are being delivered by local government and their partnerships. They form an important part of the new, streamlined local performance framework.

3. Investment in local services through the local government settlement increased 39per cent in real terms from 1997-98 to 2007-08. This provided 10 years of above inflation increases in Government grant for authorities overall. In 2008-09 the government put in place the first ever three-year spending review which, as well as giving councils the stability and flexibility to plan their budgets, further increased the amount going to local government through the settlement by £8.9bn (an average 4.2 per cent cash increase per year). £5.7bn of grant will be mainstreamed in this period.


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