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The public trust councils more than Government in Covid Response

The public trust councils more than Government in Covid Response

A new public opinion poll, conducted by leading polling company Survation for APSE, has reinforced support for councils, councillors and council workers who have responded to Covid-19.    

The survey found that the public has placed a high level of trust in local councils and council workers in how they have responded to the health pandemic. In other findings, the data suggests that, due to the risk of viral infection associated with public transport,  private car use will increase and lockdown transitions to greener travel may not be sustained in the short term. 

Key findings include: - 

When it comes to responding people have a high degree of satisfaction at the way council key workers provided local services during Covid-19 lockdown:

  • 79% were satisfied with the way their local council’s key workers kept essential services going during the Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year, with 44% being highly satisfied and only 12% dissatisfied. 

Equally the public continues to favour more money for local councils for local services:

  • 79% would like the government to give more money to local councils to spend at the local level.

It is bad news for Government and ministers with four and a half times more trusting  councils than Government and nine times more trusting councillors over Government ministers, with just 6% of the public trusting ministers to make decisions about their local areas:   

  • Four and half times as many trust the local council (54%) over the Government (12%) to make decisions about how services are provided in their local area.
  • Nine times as many trust local councillors (56%) over Government ministers (6%) to make decisions about their local area. 
  • Five times more people trusted councils (55%) to provide local services over a private company (11%) or the Government (11%).

Public satisfaction in key neighbourhood services has increased yet again from 2019 with 2020 providing a bumper year for local public services to be recognised. The top scores for public satisfaction go:

  • Parks
  • School meals
  • Waste and recycling 
  • Street Lighting 

These satisfaction ratings are also reflected in where the public would like to see more money spent. We asked where the public would like to allocate funding from a notional budget to services.

  • Waste and recycling, parks and school meals all increased as public priorities in 2020 up on 2019, perhaps reflecting public experience or consciousness of these vital services during lockdown   
  • Whilst social care was still a priority this is slightly down on the figures for 2019 as is climate change though both areas still rank the highest for priority spending

The public also trust councils far more than anyone else to provide residential care services to older people – a service area that has reached the headlines throughout lockdown.

  • 40% of people trusted councils more to provide residential care services, 2.5 times more than private companies (16%) and the Government (15%).

When it comes to the climate emergency, the public think councils are best placed to combat the effects of climate change in their local community with big support for making homes more efficient:

  • 61% say the specific local climate action they most support is making homes more energy efficient.
  • 54% would like to see more of their taxes given to their local council to address climate change.
  • 39% see councils as best placed to implement local steps to combat the effects of climate change compared to 31% for the Government.

It may not all be good news though for green issues following Covid-19. Whilst there was an initial ‘Covid bonus’ with many cars off the road during lockdown and people walking and cycling more, on-going social distancing measures and messages to avoid public transport at busy times means a greater amount of people now intend to use cars more than before lockdown, although many will also walk more. People are now less likely to use trains, buses and taxis compared to before the first lockdown: 

  • 55% say they are more likely to walk and 42% more likely to use cars compared to before the first lockdown.
  • 55% say they are less likely to use a train/tube/tram,  52% a bus and 50% a taxi.
  • 26% are more likely to cycle, 27% are less likely and 47% will not change their level of cycle use.. 

The public also favour more investment in social care followed by affordable housing, road maintenance and climate. 

Speaking about the poll results APSE Chief Executive Paul O’Brien said, “Many in local government will be cheered by the high level of trust placed in local councils, delivering the services the public want and need, especially during the pandemic. The results demonstrate the value with which the public regard neighbourhood level public services.

However, acknowledging some of the challenges presented by the results he went on to say:

“What is also clear is that we have a job to do in convincing Government that local investment through councils is not only popular but a sensible route to delivering visible improvements at a community level. This means delivering on public priorities in partnership with councils, especially in areas like climate change, where councils can make a real difference in greening local transport, and investing in making homes more energy efficient”. 

Download the full report .pdf 


Notes to Editors 

Polling was conducted by Survation with field work taking place between the 12-16 October.

The polling sample consisted of 1693 UK residents Aged 18+

The polling results will be released on Monday 30 November 2020

APSE is the Association for Public Service Excellence a not-for-profit local government organisation working with over 300 local councils across the UK.

For interview or press articles please contact Mo Baines on [email protected] or call 07971 843515 or Matt Ellis on [email protected]


Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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