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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 09 March, 2015

Report of the Leader

The Vale of Glamorgan Public Opinion Survey 2014

Purpose of the Report

1. To inform members of the results of the 2014 Public Opinion Survey.

Recommendations

1.  That Cabinet note the findings of the report.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.  To ensure members of the Cabinet are aware of residents' level of awareness of the Council's work and levels of satisfaction with the standard of Council services.

Background

2. The Council conducts a public opinion survey every two years. In 2014, as in 2012, Beaufort Research, an independent market research company, carried out the public opinion survey on behalf of the Council.

 

3. The results of the public opinion survey (full report attached as Appendix A) inform a number of corporate performance indicators and provide service managers with robust data on residents' satisfaction with their service.

Relevant Issues and Options

4. The research focused on two key areas, how residents interact with the Vale of Glamorgan Council and residents' satisfaction with a range of Vale of Glamorgan Council services. The majority of questions asked mirrored those used in 2012 and 2009 to allow for trend analysis. 904 interviews were conducted with a representative sample of Vale residents aged 16 or over. The interviews were conducted face to face in respondents' homes between 30 July 2 and 15 September 2014.

 

5. The 2014 survey asked questions about residents’ awareness of the Council, contact with the Council, overall opinion of the Council and life in the Vale, satisfaction with a selection of key services, and their housing situation.

 

6. Awareness of the Council: Vale residents' knowledge of what the Council does and the financial context within which it is currently operating is limited.

Vale of Glamorgan residents’ knowledge of their council was mixed. Half thought that they either knew a lot (10%) or enough (40%) with other half admitting that they knew some, but not enough (33%) or nothing at all (16%).

Public understanding of the financial context in which the Council is working was found to be relatively limited. When prompted with detail about the extent of the budget cuts (£35.5 million of savings over the next three years as then estimated), only 14% were fully aware of the extent of the savings required. 31% said they were aware but not to the full extent with the majority, 55%, reporting that they didn’t know that the Council faced this issue.

Just over half (56%) of residents reported receiving information about the Council from Council sources, with letters and leaflets through the post being the most likely source.

In terms of different media sources, residents were most likely to find out information or news about the Council from the traditional print press – three quarters of the sample stated that they had found out information from newspapers compared with 42% who accessed information about the council from TV and 25% who used websites for this.

 

7. Customer Contact: The number of residents contacting the Council is increasing and the way in which they are doing this is changing.

In the last 12 months 52% of residents have contacted the Council, this is an increase from 46% in 2012 and 35% in 2009.

Telephone remains the most likely way in which to contact the Council (66%) but the use of the internet/website has increased significantly as a contact method (27% in 2014 compared with 5% in 2012).

 

8. Overall opinion of Council services: The results show that there has been a decline in the level of satisfaction compared with the previous survey. However, the vast majority (84%) of Vale of Glamorgan residents remain satisfied overall with the service provided by the Vale of Glamorgan.

The research found that whilst public knowledge of cuts to the Council's budget does not impact on satisfaction, the general level of knowledge of what the Council does has a significant impact – those who know more about what the Council does being more satisfied.

Some of the reasons given for overall dissatisfaction related to specific services issues such as refuse collection, recycling, and road maintenance. However, other residents stated they were dissatisfied due to how they felt they were treated by the Council (for example a lack of consultation and poor service when dealing with enquiries or complaints).

 

9. Satisfaction with individual services: satisfaction levels remain high across the majority of Council services. However, there is a trend of decline. The most notable areas are the following.

92% of respondents are very or fairly satisfied with parks and grounds maintenance. This is the one area where satisfaction levels have not moved since 2012.

Overall satisfaction with highways maintenance remains relatively high, 77% of respondents stated that they were fairly or very satisfied with the service. However, only 51% of residents are satisfied with pavement maintenance and only 41% with road maintenance.

88% of respondents are either fairly or very satisfied with waste management and 84% of residents feel this way about cleanliness.

 

10. Beaufort Research's report reaches the following conclusion.

"It is inescapable that the 2014 survey finds a reduction in residents' satisfaction with Council services compared with previous findings and this perhaps is not surprising given the budgetary pressures on services over recent years.

"Whilst direct experience of individual services influences how residents view the Council overall, this is not the only contributory factor. Many of those who were dissatisfied report that this was down to a lack of contact (i.e. consultation) or poor quality contact (i.e. how they were dealt with following an enquiry or complaint).

"Improving communication and contact with residents will help to increase overall satisfaction with the Council as the survey also demonstrates that those with greater knowledge of what the Council does and those who believe they can influence Council decisions are more satisfied overall.

"Over recent years, usage of electronic forms of communication to and from the Council has grown – almost half of residents now visit the Council website and therefore this provides an opportunity for communication. However, the survey also shows that visiting the website for a proportion of residents is on a fairly infrequent basis, possibly linked to when the need arises rather than being a routine way of accessing information. As such to fully take advantage of the potential of this online communication method the Council needs to increase traffic to its website. In the meantime, communication of Council information and news via the website should be regarded as one of, rather than the sole delivery mechanism.

"As one might expect, there appears to be little appetite for the Council increasing or introducing fees for its services. However, if the Council can harness the reported willingness to engage in volunteer activity then this may ease the burden on some services."

 

11. This conclusion mirrors that of the Council's recent programme of budget consultation, which also found that awareness of the Council's work among some residents was low. However, it also tells us that knowledge of what the Council does is a key driver of satisfaction.

 

12. Increasing Vale residents' awareness of how the Council operates and the services that it delivers has already been identified as an area of work for the Reshaping Services programme. The programme will consider all facets of the public opinion survey as it progresses.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13. The research costs have been met within existing resources.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

14. None.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15. The Council has a statutory obligation to consult with residents.

Crime and Disorder Implications

16. None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17. Non-probability quota sampling techniques were used to select residents for interview to ensure the survey results were representative of the Vale's population.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18. The public opinion survey will assist the Council in meeting its corporate objectives as set out in its Corporate Plan.

Policy Framework and Budget

19. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20. None.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

21. Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

The Vale of Glamorgan Public Opinion Survey 2014

Contact Officer

Rob Jones, Senior Media Officer

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer:

Huw Isaac, Head of Performance and Development

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