Debate has been raging in recent weeks about whether the public have begun to notice the impact of cuts to local government services, following a recent opinion poll which suggested they hadn’t, and the Prime Ministers own intervention in his own local council’s approach to budget constraints.
Much focus is placed on the big spending budgets of adult and children’s services, ones that the public are often not regularly engaged with, ironically the services that they experience on a daily basis, like parks, public realm, refuse and leisure services are being eroded significantly.
So will these cuts go unnoticed for much longer? And can these services stand further reductions if the 30% pre-announced cuts to DCLG at departmental level end up transferring down to council budgets?
In services such as parks we are already seeing customer satisfaction levels begin to drop, according to APSE’s performance networks data. Our state of the market survey also shows that 27% of councils expect to close some parks and open spaces in the coming year.
Street cleansing has seen a significant drop in customer satisfaction for the second year running, with a cumulative reduction of around 5% this suggests that the public are starting to notice a deterioration in their areas.
Hundreds of libraries have been shut already with more to come. Repairs and maintenance budgets for schools, leisure centres and public buildings are being wiped out.
For the elderly ‘meals on wheels’ is not only a source of good nutrition but for many a vital lifeline to the outside world. The amount of money spent on this service for the over 65’s has fallen by 47% in the last three years alone.
Young and old, families and individuals, spending is being removed for not only services that people rely on but the infrastructure that local communities depend upon.
Local government is widely recognised as being the part of the public sector that has delivered huge efficiencies whilst continuing to deliver good services. However, history tells us that the impact of cuts can take longer to filter through. Lack of investment may take time to be realised in customer satisfaction but our data is suggesting that those impacts will start to be felt more acutely.
It can only be a matter of time before the public realise what they are losing. I hope that it’s not too late for many of the services they look to for a reasonable quality of life. It may prove to be a case of not knowing what you’ve got till it’s gone.