84% not happy with their council

By Ted JeoryA SURVEY has found more than eight of 10 residents felt their council was failing to deliver.Colchester Borough Council commissioned pollsters NOP to ask 1,100 people their views on a range of issues.

By Ted Jeory

A SURVEY has found more than eight of 10 residents felt their council was failing to deliver.

Colchester Borough Council commissioned pollsters NOP to ask 1,100 people their views on a range of issues.

Only 16% said the way the council ran things since 2000 had improved – with 62% believing it had stagnated and 22% saying it had worsened.

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In the poll, residents put low crime levels, clean streets, health services, affordable housing and public transport as the top five factors in making somewhere a good place to live.

Although 84% said they were satisfied with their neighbourhood as a place to live, those factors were also, by and large, what they felt were in need of improving.

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But when it came to the public's perception of their ability to influence change, the poll revealed a high level of disaffection, with 50% saying they had no influence and 27% unsure.

Respondents also identified a number of other areas that they considered a problem, including teenagers hanging around, vandalism and graffiti, drugs, rubbish and abandoned cars – some of which the council has little control over.

But they also acknowledged recycling facilities had improved, with 79% saying they were satisfied with the council's service.

The survey was conducted in autumn last year as part of the drafting of the council's strategic plan for 2004/7, which will be discussed by its strategic overview and scrutiny panel on January 13.

Council officers said the findings mirrored the authority's long-term objectives in areas such as street cleaning and finding entertainment for loitering teenagers.

But Tim Young, the Labour group leader on the borough council, said: "I hope this poll wakes the council's leaders from their arrogant stupor.

"Yes, they have improved in some areas, especially in things like PR, but I think they've been believing their own publicity a little too much.

"It's the people on the streets that they need to listen to. When you go knocking on doors, as we have, you hear a different story – they're clearly saying services aren't up to scratch."

Colin Sykes, the Liberal Democrat council leader, said: "There are some conflicting responses in the survey, but we are one of the top councils in the UK when it comes to leisure facilities and that is shown by independent inspections.

"On issues like crime, we have little control and, yes, the roads are congested, but again, we don't have much control – the geography of the place doesn't allow us to build more roads."

John Jowers, leader of the Conservative group on the council, believed the authority would always get the blame for general problems, even when it was outside its remit.

He added: "The important figure is that 84% of people are satisfied with their neighbourhood. But in a lot of respects that can count against when people are asked about specific areas because they then stick out and we become whipping boys.

"The poll does suggest people are happy with things like recycling, which has definitely improved, although it costs a lot. But we have to look where we can do better and these surveys help us to prioritise spending."


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