A story that was rather buried on the BBC website today was the results of a public poll that showed that many people think council services have improved since the austerity measures were implemented.
There was, and indeed still is, a great deal of squealing when councils were told that they would have to trim their budgets and focus on the delivery of their core, front-line services. It seems that despite the Armageddon predictions of some councils and the angry mumbling a of others they have done exactly what was asked of them. This isn’t a great surprise to me, Conservative councils have always made their pitch to voters that they provide quality services at modest cost. Left wing councils like to cry wolf but both councillors and council officers want to do the right thing by their residents and have been forced to look for savings where it won’t hurt their residents. Low and behold, they’ve found them!
There are a couple of points that I find particularly interesting. The first is that not only do many people feel that services have got no worse but that they have improved, this shows that not only is it possible to do the same with less but actually that you can do more with less.
The second point is that the people who use services tend to be more likely to think well of them than those that don’t. This is hardly surprising when you look back at the public pronouncements that many councils have made, dutifully reported in local, regional and national media. Based on this background noise people reasonably assume that the quantum and quality of services have declined, those who know the reality through experience feel differently.
I’m very pleased that in London government we have been able to mirror this by maintaining service quality and simultaneously reducing our share of council tax.