Your Council

Budget survey - Taking  tough decisions together: survey results

Introduction

Hampshire County Council carried out a short survey in November 2013, with the purpose of obtaining residents’ views on which of the County Council’s services they valued most, to inform spending priorities and on-going service improvements.

Specifically, the survey aimed to seek residents’ views on:

  • What they value most and least from the public services provided by the County Council.
  • What they would, and would not, be prepared to support in terms of strategic spending priorities.
  • What they would, and would not, be prepared to support in terms of charging for services.

The survey was ‘open’ to all residents across Hampshire, and was promoted using various means, including via the County Council’s website, social media, the Hampshire Association of Local Councils, the voluntary and community sector, and County Council service user groups. In addition, paper copies of the survey were publically available in Hampshire libraries and Discovery Centres as well as in other local authority public buildings.

Although survey methods of this type are known to have limitations, due to bias created by specific groups more disposed to reply to a survey than others, 2,107 responses were received, 1825 (87 per cent) of which were completed online and 282 (13 per cent) via paper questionnaires. While the numbers are not considered ‘statistically significant’, the results do give an indication of views, preferences, and opinions.  

This report sets out the responses received as part of the survey and the County Council’s action to-date.  

Services most and least valued by residents

Improving health and wellbeing category

The services most valued in this category by residents related to those for older people.

72% of respondents placed most importance on helping vulnerable, and older people maintain their independence for longer

The County Council is investing up to £45 million in providing modern Extra Care, which offers people the opportunity to live independently in their own homes for longer, with the security and reassurance of 24 hour care on site. In addition, the County Council has continued to add an extra £10 million a year to the revenue budget for the care of vulnerable adults.

Older residents tell the Council that they want to stay in their own home for as long as possible and do not want to move into residential settings until much later now, when their needs are more complex and often require nursing care.

  • 10,750 clients are supported to live at home with a long term package of care.

  • 5,000 people accessed re-ablement services during 2012/13 helping them to regain their independence and avoid the need for long term care or admission to a residential setting

  • There are 697 Extra Care assisted living units in operation

  • Every day over £1 million is spent by the County Council providing adult social care.

The service of least importance to respondents was providing early years’ services.

Promoting economic prosperity and protecting the environment

The services most valued in this category by residents were related to Hampshire’s highways.

71% of respondents placed most importance on the maintenance of the county’s roads and pavements.

The County Council is continuing to invest in the condition of Hampshire’s roads and the capital and revenue budgets for 2014/15 include total funding of nearly £54 million for highways maintenance works.

The industry’s latest national survey on public satisfaction levels with highways maintenance put Hampshire in the top two authorities in the country.

The service of least importance to respondents was promoting tourism in the county.

Working with communities to enhance local services

The services most valued in this category by residents were related to community safety

73% of respondents placed most importance on dealing with anti-social behaviour and improving community safety.

In addition to the £1.6 million government grant, further funding is being earmarked to boost the Supporting Troubled Families Programme, which is on track to provide early help and support to almost 1,600 families by March 2015.

The Council’s new model of multi-agency working has already delivered positive outcomes for some 400 families with reductions in youth crime, improvement in school attendance and family members helped back into training, apprenticeships and employment. Sustaining the achievements from these early interventions will significantly reduce the future demands on the public purse.

Building on the Council’s established collaborative working with other public sector partners, over the next year, discussions will be held with the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable about maintaining the wider policing services provided to the county of Hampshire.

The services of least importance to respondents were providing museum and arts services

Delivering high quality, cost-effective public services

The services most valued in this category by residents related to public sector collaboration.

62% of respondents placed most importance on saving costs by sharing services with other public sector organisations.

As part of the County Council’s major transformation and efficiencies programme, which has secured savings of £130 million in three years, partnership working with Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service is set to deliver combined savings of up to £4 million each year.

The Council has already reduced its office space by around a third through making better use of buildings and co-location resulting in £2 million annual savings.

The least important option selected by respondents was ‘joining up’ with other local councils (as opposed to specifically sharing services to save costs).

Areas for change

The areas on which the respondents were most prepared to accept change were:

Access more services / information online (81%)

Pay more for hiring rooms in Council-owned buildings (75%)

The County Council is improving the quantity and quality of information on its website, and the number of tasks that can be done online (e.g. purchasing services).

To support residents in accessing more County Council services online, the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme is moving apace with phase one of the scheme to give access to faster internet speeds to 9,000 premises. Funds of up to £9.2 million are being made available to extend the programme further, to attract more public and private sector investment for providing the high speed infrastructure.

Maximising the use of technology is recognised as key to securing further efficiencies and supporting high levels of customer service.

The County Council is looking at ways of generating income to conserve and protect Hampshire’s historic buildings for the future. For example, encouraging greater donations towards the on going costs of maintenance for the Great Hall, which is available for private hire.

The area on which the respondents were least prepared to accept change was:

Pay more in council tax (62%)

The Council is proposing to freeze council tax to maintain levels for the fifth consecutive year. Hampshire's council tax remains the lowest of county councils in the south east, and one of the lowest in the country.

The area on which respondents were least prepared to pay for, was:   

Disposing of waste at household waste recycling centres (62%)

The County Council has no plans to introduce general charges for Hampshire residents to bring materials to the Household Waste and Recycling Centres.

Hampshire County Council disposes of approximately 600,000 tonnes of household waste every year. Hampshire’s 24 Household Waste Recycling Centres receive four million visitors each year.

The most mentions for saving money

The most mentions for saving money related to operational efficiencies. For example, ensuring value for money in the things the County Council purchases and the services it contracts. Increasing productivity and reducing overall levels of waste across the organisation were also key themes.

The Council has been undertaking a programme of work, to examine every aspect of its external spend, including commissioning, procurement and contract/supplier management.

The Council has saved £130 million in three years, reduced its workforce by around 1,700, and remains on track to deliver a further £93 million of savings by 2015 (12 per cent of the Council’s budget). The Council is preparing for a 35 per cent reduction in senior management costs by 2015.

This is being achieved through the largest transformation programme the Council has ever undertaken (called Transforming the Council to 2015) which aims to fundamentally reshape the County Council’s services to improve quality and reduce costs – securing the best outcomes for the people of Hampshire.

Overall findings

The results of this survey reveal that respondents placed the most importance on those operations that:

  • Help vulnerable and older people
  • Maintain roads and pavements
  • Deal with anti-social behaviour and improve community safety
  • Save costs by sharing services with other public sector organisations.  

Operations considered to be of least importance were:

  • Promoting tourism
  • Museums and art services
  • Early years’ services
  • Joining up with other local councils (as opposed to sharing costs by specifically sharing services).

The respondents indicated a willingness to ‘do more themselves’ online as a method of reducing costs. They were unwilling to pay more council tax or pay for essential services, such as the disposal of waste.

Suggestions for efficiencies focussed on reducing the general operational and running costs of the County Council and securing more value for money.