State of the Locals Survey 2022: opinions of councils and MPs

The Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) has released an Ipsos survey of 4,330 residents’ attitudes to councils and councillors, and their priorities. Earlier, Ipsos published part of the poll which also included people’s opinions of MPs and a regional breakdown of opinion. This survey gives a useful perspective for campaigners who are out drumming up support ahead of the 5 May elections, reinforcing and detailing what we know and what we are hearing on the doorsteps.

Respondents said local government councils and councillors had more impact on people’s daily lives and the quality of their neighbourhoods than the government. However, a majority of respondents lacked knowledge and awareness about how councils work and what councillors actually do. Half of people think MPs don’t tell the truth, while a third thought the same of councillors.

This survey can be read as disappointing. We would all like achieve more as councillors and people to have better knowledge of what we do. But on many matters, it is not as bad as I might have feared. And we know that Lib Dem councillors outclass most others in communicating, not just in the lead up to an election, but throughout their term in office.

Voting

It is commonplace for people to overestimate how much they take part in local democracy. That’s true with this survey where 65% of respondents say they take part in local elections. In practice it’s half that, with two-thirds of the votes being postal and one third at the ballot box. More useful are the statistics on age: 74% of people aged 55 to 75 years often or always vote compared to 39% of people aged 18 to 24 years.

Despite saying they don’t vote, 63% of young people say they are well informed about the importance of local elections. That rises to 79% for those aged 55 to 75 years.

Graduates and skilled workers vote more often than non-graduates and unskilled workers.

Priorities

When ask what most needs improving in their local area, half of respondents cited roads and pavements. Two-fifths prioritised affordable decent housing, with health services, wages and the cost of living, and shops and the high street coming close behind. Least important to potential voters were cultural and sports facilities, schools the local environment, and parks and green spaces. There are regional variations with, for example, the condition of roads and pavements being most important in the East Midlands, Wales and Scotland and least important in Greater London (details in the Ipsos report).

Neighbourhoods

Most respondents are satisfied with their neighbourhoods (75%). Satisfaction varies strongly between regions with Wales and the South East topping the poll (83%; 80% satisfied) and the West Midlands and Greater London trailing (69%; 67%). Only one third were satisfied with what their council was doing to improve their neighbourhood (34%) and only a quarter with what the UK government is doing to improve their area (24%). Again ,satisfaction varies by region with the South West and Greater London getting higher scores (40%; 40% satisfied) and Yorkshire and Humberside lagging (31%; 26%).

Truthfulness

More than half of respondents think councillors tell the truth half the time. MPs do less well and fewer than half of respondents think they are mostly truthful.

Political awareness

A little more than half of respondents know a great deal or a fair amount about the work of MPs in Westminster. Fewer people know about the work of councils and councillors.

Satisfaction

This is fairly evenly spilt with roughly one third respondents thinking councillors are doing a good job, a third doing a bad job and a third not having an opinion. There are important differences: councillors are better at providing information than they are at dealing with local issues and complaints.

Local engagement

There is an appetite for knowing more about local decisions and for having a greater say in decisions. Nearly one in ten respondents say they want to get involved in how local decisions are made.

Seminar

The information used in this article was first presented at an LGIU seminar.

 

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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