There will be a presentation for this item.
The Commission considered a report of the Director of Corporate Resources which set out the outcome of the recent consultation exercise on the County Council’s priorities and outlined how it would be used to inform decisions taken as part of the refresh of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS). The Commission also received a presentation on the matter. A copy of the report and slides forming the presentation marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.
In his introduction to the report, the Director of Corporate Resources explained that despite the positive tone of recent national announcements, the financial outlook for local government was still expected to be challenging. The funding announcement only covered a one-year period, there was fiscal constraint at a national level and the implementation of the National Living Wage created a significant cost pressure.
Arising from questions and discussion, the following points were raised:
(i) The outcome of both the survey and the focus groups showed that respondents were less supportive of further cuts than they had been previously and were therefore more willing to accept measures such as council tax increases. A member suggested that this might not be the view of the majority of Leicestershire’s residents.
(ii) Statutory services had been included in the consultation as there tended to be some flexibility regarding how they were delivered. In addition, it was useful to understand the priorities of local residents and be able to reflect them back to central Government.
(iii) It was noted that respondents would welcome greater investment in highways. The Commission hoped that this view would be taken into account by the Cabinet when refreshing the MTFS.
(iv) The support for reorganising local government was noted, with 81% of respondents agreeing. It was clarified that 92 people had also chosen to mention specifically their support for a unitary council in the free text box, making it one of the top ten issues mentioned. This response was in addition to completing the survey and respondents could comment on anything they wished, therefore the number of responses was expected to be smaller.
(v) It was suggested that 4371 was a low number of responses, representing only a small proportion of Leicestershire residents. More than 7000 people had responded to the previous consultation, undertaken in 2013. The Director acknowledged that it was more difficult to engage with people, but he was pleased with the level of response. Advice had been sought from an independent research company who welcomed the response rate for a consultation of this nature. The Commission was also assured that the survey was just one of a number of different exercises, including the use of deliberative focus groups, that informed the MTFS refresh. However, a member suggested that a different approach rather than the use of a survey, such as the narrative approach, should have been used.
(vi) The consultation exercise had included meeting with focus groups; this provided a more detailed insight into the view of residents. Due to the small size of the groups it was difficult to draw conclusions based on demographics, but in general the younger attendants had been more supportive of services for younger people and had promoted the concept of personal accountability. The older attendants had generally been more concerned with safety and services for older people. It was confirmed that the focus groups had been carefully recruited to in order to ensure that they were representative with regard to age, sex, disability, social grade, work-status, geographical location and ethnicity. Different locations had been used throughout the county which were accessible by public transport. There had been a £60 incentive for attendance and refreshments were provided.
(vii) It was suggested that the outcome of the consultation should be used by departments to consider whether messages about the value of their services were reaching the public.
(a) That the outcome of the consultation on the County Council’s priorities be noted;
(b) That the comments now made be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration at its meeting on 22 November.
[The meeting adjourned at 1.22pm and reconvened at 2.15pm.]