Headlines: May 25th, 2007



Councils are being urged to use new devolutionary powers to ensure their local communities are engaged with them and to improve public satisfaction with local government. Phil Woolas, the Local Government Minister, said although services were improving rapidly only just over half of people were satisfied with the way their council ran things and new figures from the Best Value User Satisfaction survey would show a continuing decline in satisfaction since 2000.

“Local government has a good story to tell with local services improving significantly over the last ten years, largely thanks to the hard work of frontline council staff and the real terms increase in funding. But these new figures show we cannot take the public for granted, we must find new ways to engage with people and meet their ambition. That is why we are devolving unprecedented levels of power through our new Community Call for Action, greater community management and ownership of assets and more powers for frontline councillors to give people a greater voice,” he said.

The overall fall in satisfaction, said Mr. Woolas, was in stark contrast with the improvements in satisfaction with many individual services and the Audit Commission’s CPA process, which showed continuing improvements in local government. On individual services the survey showed 79 per cent of people were satisfied with their local waste disposal service and almost as many were happy with libraries and parks and open spaces. In each case the figures show an improvement. Satisfaction with recycling services and sports and leisure facilities had also improved.

Phil Woolas said new powers currently going through Parliament would be an opportunity for councils to engage local communities and improve satisfaction levels. “The figures speak for themselves. Where councils communicate effectively with their residents to ensure people know what is going on and have a voice and are involved in decisions, people are more satisfied overall. However the views of local people have not kept pace with improvements and we need to change that,” he said. The message was that councils could not cut crime, improve job prospects or address other issues people cared about on their own but had to work with local partners and local people.