The country recently elected a new parliament to Westminster, so what will the public want to see at the top of ministerial in-trays?
It’s very timely that Survation has just completed APSE’s annual polling of public opinion on local government services. What it finds is that satisfaction with services is starting to drop and people are noticing a decline in their locality. They are also saying they want to see more of the tax that they pay given to councils to spend in their local area.
If the new Government wants to demonstrate that the decade associated with austerity has passed then the public clearly want to see visible improvements across their neighbourhood services. This means investment across everything from public realm to affordable housing. Social care also remains important in public opinion but this is balanced against these wider priorities.
A consistent trend is that trust is continuously increasing in councils and councillors to get decisions correct about their local area and to deliver services directly to local people.
Something that has risen hugely in the public consciousness is climate change and the recognition that both government and councils will need to spend significant time, effort and resources in responding over the next decade. When it comes to tackling the effects of climate change they want to see more money spent on reducing waste; housing and public buildings being more energy efficient; affordable public transport and electric car charging infrastructure; improved flood defences; local green energy supply and improved local shopping centres.
What the public are saying is it’s time to stop talking and pay some attention to local communities, it’s time to invest in local infrastructure, the public realm and local services. They are worried about the decline in their area, so spend money in it now, to not only address this but to futureproof it by taking action against the onset of climate change. Let’s think about how we can really create more robust, resilient sustainable economies and work locally to do something about it.
The new government at Westminster would do well to consider carefully that whilst Brexit will continue to take up a lot of the parliamentary timetable, the public will be fairly unforgiving, if having raised their expectations on major investments in public spending during the election campaign, they don’t start to see evidence of this happening in their own communities.