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Public believe councils will be spared cuts

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By Vivienne Russell

18 October 2010

Almost half of adults believe local authorities won’t have their funding cut, according to a survey published today.

A Populus poll of 1,000 British adults reveals widespread ignorance about the scale of planned spending cuts. While 45% of residents surveyed said they did not expect the amount of money councils receive from government to be cut, 13% – equivalent to one in eight – believe council grants will increase over the next year.

People living in the Northeast were the least prepared for spending cuts, with 30% believing government funding was set to increase.

The survey was commissioned by the public sector think-tank LGinsight. Its chair, Neil Wholey, said councils and public sector bodies should not assume their residents are well informed about the national financial situation.

‘Not everyone follows the national news and not everyone seems to be getting the message that for the public sector there are undoubtedly going to be tough times ahead. Keeping residents informed about proposed service and budget changes helps to ensure they understand them well as the role of the local authority,’ he said.

‘We are going to have to work ever harder to get these messages out there or we will risk failing to meet unrealistic resident expectations and subsequently seeing satisfaction with the services that we provide fall to an all-time low.'

The survey also highlights the challenge for authorities to maintain what residents perceive to be value for money. Almost half (47%) of residents across Britain expect the value for money their receive from their council to stay the same, while almost one in ten (9%) think value for money will increase.

The poll found that, even among those who recognise that spending cuts are coming, there was an unwillingness to accept a decline in value for money.