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Residents ‘satisfied’ with council services

More than two-thirds of people remain ‘fairly satisfied’ with the way councils have run their services over the last two years, a Local Government Association (LGA) report has revealed.

The Evaluation of Sector-led Improvement report, which ran over a two-year period up until early 2014, highlighted that local authorities across the country have maintained and improved performance with the help of a range of support, including a programme of peer challenges.

Furthermore, when people were asked whether they trusted councils or government most to make decisions about how services were provided in their local area, 77% said local councils.

Cllr Peter Fleming, chair of the LGA's Improvement and Innovation Board, said: “The achievements of councils through the sector-led improvement approach demonstrate its success and shows what councils can achieve by working together and supporting one another rather than through external inspection and targets. The previous top-down approach was estimated to cost £2bn a year, whereas sector-led improvement is locally-driven, much cheaper and more effective.

“But the best barometer of sector-led improvement is the level of satisfaction and trust that members of the public have in councils and this has remained consistently high. Local government is one of the most trusted parts of the public sector and has kept this reputation despite a difficult financial climate and rising expectations and demand.”

Sector-led improvement is based on the following key principles:

  • Councils are responsible for their own performance and improvement and for leading the delivery of improved outcomes for local people in their area;
  • Councils are primarily accountable to local communities (not government or the inspectorates) and stronger accountability through increased transparency helps localpeople drive further improvement;
  • Councils have a collective responsibility for the performance of the sector as a whole (evidenced by sharing best practice, offering member and officer peers, etc.); and
  • The role of the LGA is to maintain an overview of the performance of the sector in order to identify potential performance challenges and opportunities – and to provide tools and support to help councils take advantage of this new approach.

Sector-led improvement focuses on councils working together to provide support to each other and take collective responsibility. So far the LGA has provided more than 350 peer challenges, which look at issues of leadership, corporate capacity and financial resilience, between April 2011 and March 2014; training and development for more than 2,000 councillors; made savings in excess of £400m through the LGA's productivity programme; and recruited and trained nearly 250 graduates to work in local government.

The overall message from the evaluation is positive, according to the LGA. Residents remain satisfied with and continue to trust their local council, despite theincreasing financial constraints being faced by the sector. An objective assessment of local government performance across the full range of local government activity demonstrates that councils are continuing to improve performance, with nearly three quarters of the metrics demonstrating improvement since 2010.

Furthermore, the sector-led improvement approach and support from the LGA has been welcomed and valued by councils, and there is a high level of confidence within the sector in its capacity to monitor its own performance and improve.

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