Headlines: August 23rd, 2006



A report from the Confederation of British Industries calls for local communities to be given more say over their public services. The report ‘Transforming local services’ says that empowering local people and creating responsive local services is achievable, providing that the practical issues of doing so are tackled properly.

It presents a number of case studies which underscore this message and demonstrate that service providers are already addressing these challenges and local empowerment is already happening on the ground. Local empowerment has been achieved in a range of services including environmental, housing, highways and care services.

Despite this progress, surveys show that ten percent of people are still dissatisfied with their local area, and this increases to 17% in deprived areas. The figures reveal that public service reform has been rather patchy in its impact and the CBI believes that dissatisfaction results mainly from users being insufficiently involved.

Local authorities however have often found it difficult to harness the public appetite for involvement in public services. Three quarters of authorities are experimenting with forms of user engagement but nearly two thirds of people do not believe that public services listen or respond to them enough.

Currently the public feels it is not informed about public services and does not have a chance to input into the development of policies involved. Another survey in one locality found that 80% of people were keen to get involved in public services, with 25% actually prepared to give up their time. The problem is that the public does not get involved when it has the chance. Government research in this area shows that of 55% of residents claiming to want to be included, only 2% actually get involved.

The CBI believes that empowering local people to help design services focused on their needs is one of the most important emerging challenges in local government today.