When councils are forced to reduce the amount they spend it is even more important to ensure they are spending it on things that matter to local residents. Labour councillors have found themselves in very hot water on this recently.
Last October, following the Comprehensive Spending Review the Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition of Reading Borough Council conducted the first ever public consultation about which Council services matter most to local people ahead of setting the Budget for the following year (2011/12).
Residents were invited to comment via a Have Your Say survey form about what services matter to them. The findings helped to inform the budget savings options Lib Dem and Conservative Councillors have been developing in recent months, and which were discussed at full Council earlier this week.
The closing date or the consultation was 19 November 2010. Over 900 completed surveys were received by the Council and the summary of findings were presented at Cabinet on 17 January.
Residents who responded ranked services in the following priority order
- Children's Social Care Services
- Adult Social Care Services
- Housing Services
- Waste, Refuse and Recycling
- Planning and Building Regulation
- Public Health & Safety
- Community Safety
- Leisure, Culture and Sport
Over 50% of respondents rated adult social care services as very important, with housing services close behind on over 45%.This closely reflects the priority the Coalition Administration in Reading has given to investing in education, protecting vulnerable adults and children, and promoting excellent housing standards across all housing types. I am personally leading focussing resources on social care and housing. I am doing this not only because I think it is important but because I know from talking to residents it matters to people in Reading.
Digging deeper into the results it was interesting to read that 68% of respondents felt that the Council should provide adult social care services with over 30% of respondents feeling that others could provide this service. On housing services opinion was quite evenly split with 53% of residents believing that others could provide housing services (compared to 46% who felt the Council should).
This is the first such consultation carried out by the Council since I was first elected (2006). When Labour councillors were in power did not consult residents in this way as part of the budget process. I really hope it becomes a regular part of our budget setting every year.