Ann McGauran 30 November 2020

Survey shows public trusts councils more than Government on COVID

The findings of a new opinion poll show the public trusts councils more than Government on the response to COVID, says APSE.

APSE said the poll, conducted for it by Survation , has underlined support for the response of councils, their workforces and councillors to COVID-19, with 79% satisfied with the way services continued during lockdown.

Those who responded were four and a half times more likely to trust the local council (54%)  over Government (12%) to make decisions about how services are provided in their local area.

Nine times as many trust local councillors (56%) over Government ministers (6%) to make decisions about their local areas. Five times more people trusted councils (55%) to provide local services over a private company (11%) or the Government (11%).

APSE said the poll shows public satisfaction in key neighbourhood services has ‘increased yet again from 2019, with 2020 providing a bumper year for local public services to be recognised’. It says the top scores for public satisfaction go to parks, school meals, waste and recycling and street lighting.

Asked where the public would like to allocate funding from a notional budget to services, waste and recycling, parks and school meals all featured highly as public priorities in 2020.

While social care was still a priority this is slightly down on the figures for 2019, as is climate change  - though both areas still rank the highest for priority spending.

On climate change, 61% said the specific local climate action they most support is making homes more energy efficient, 54% would like to see more of their taxes given to their local council to address climate change, and 39% see councils as best places to implement local steps to combat the effects of climate change -  compared to 31% for the Government.

But APSE said the survey indicates that all may not be good news for green issues following COVID-19. While there was an initial ‘COVID bonus’, with many cars off the road during lockdown and people walking and cycling more, ongoing social distancing measures and messages to avoid public transport at busy times means more people now intend to use cars more than before lockdown. Forty-two per cent of respondents said they were more likely to use cars compared to before the first lockdown, and 55% said they are more likely to walk.

Speaking about the poll results, APSE Chief Executive Paul O’Brien said: ‘Many in local government will be cheered by the high level of trust placed in local councils, delivering the services the public want and need, especially during the pandemic. The results demonstrate the value with which the public regard neighbourhood level public services.’

However, acknowledging some of the challenges presented by the results he went on to say: ‘What is also clear is that we have a job to do in convincing Government that local investment through councils is not only popular but a sensible route to delivering visible improvements at a community level.

‘This means delivering on public priorities in partnership with councils, especially in areas like climate change, where councils can make a real difference in greening local transport, and investing in making homes more energy efficient.’

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