Thursday, 23 June 2011

Is Barnet Listening to its Residents?

Yesterday Barnet released details of their long awaited Residents’ Perception Survey. This survey was last carried out in 2007/08 and replaces a major national postal survey (The Place Survey) which was scrapped by Grant Shapps last year.

The survey was carried out using telephone interviews in February and March this year and covered a representative sample of 2000 Barnet residents. The full details of the survey can be read here but I have pulled out a few elements which I found most interesting.

•40% of residents say that Barnet listens to the concerns of local residents. This represents a 12% drop since the last survey in 07/08 and 15% below the London average of 55%. I think it is rather bad timing that tonight the new "reformatted" residents' forums start, with an earlier start time making it much more difficult for working people to attend and with a much more rigid structure of what can be asked including no questions on the night.

•38% of residents agree that the council involves residents in local decisions, 12% below the London average. The results also noted that 17% of Barnet residents say they don’t know.

•Only 13% of residents believe that activities for children are excellent or good whereas 24% believe they are poor or extremely poor and 48% who simply don’t know.

•34% of residents believe council owned leisure facilities are good or excellent, 11% lower than the London average.

•A high proportion of residents rate the repair of roads, parking and quality of pavements as poor or extremely poor.

•Only 33% of residents agree that the council allocates its budget fairly across services. However 42% of residents say they ‘don’t know’.

•Only 36% believe that the government and the council are right to reduce spending, even if it means reductions in services and/or increases in charges and taxes.

•74% are worried that cuts in council budgets will affect me or my family significantly.

•43% of residents are satisfied with the opportunities for participation in local decision-making provided by the council while 11% ‘don’t know’.

•52% of residents would like to be more involved in the decisions that affect their local area. 21% of residents say it depends on the issue.

Some of the other results include the following:

•85.5% of residents are satisfied with their local area as a place to live – slightly down on the 07/08 survey.

•The top five issues which most worry local residents are:
- Condition of roads and pavements 31% - a new criterion for this survey.
- Crime 29% – down by 11% compared to the 07/08 survey and 9% lower than the London average.
- Rising prices/interest rates 27% – up 16% compared to 07/08 and 10% higher than the London average.
- Lack of jobs 24% – up 16% compared to 07/08 and 1% higher than the London average.
- Level of Council Tax 23% - down 13% compared to 07/08 and the same as the London average.

•89% of residents agree that people from different backgrounds get on well together in Barnet up 6% compared to 07/08.

•74% of residents feel strongly that they belong to their local neighbourhood compared to 65% of residents who feel strongly that they belong to the London Borough of Barnet.

•47 % of residents tend to or definitely agree that they can influence decisions that affect their local area – from my own perspective, the local fight by the community in New Barnet against inappropriate supermarket development shows that when the community speak and works together they can influence decisions that affect our local area.

•Surprisingly 58% believe that local people could work together to deliver some services that are currently provided by the Council. I am not sure people understand the full consequences of what this means but it support the statistics that people have a strong sense of belonging to their community.

•62 % of residents agree the council keeps residents informed about what they are doing, 9% below the London average.

I sincerely hope that Barnet read the results, listen to what local residents are saying and involve us much more in influencing the place where we live. The other thing that jumps out at me from this survey is the high level of “don’t knows”. I hope that Barnet Council act on this positively and develop a much stronger communication strategy to tell the residents of Barnet what is actually going on.

As a footnote, I would also note that it is disappointing that the actual questionnaire has not been published as an appendix to the survey which makes it much more difficult to understand how the questions were asked and to provide some context for the answers. I also hope that Barnet publish the raw dat very quickly so that we can examine the results in more detail.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding tonight's meeting:

    Mr Reasonable's blog has been mentioned on "Pinkham Way Incinerator", and there has been a comment added there:

    "I'm from the Barnet Alliance for Public Services.

    I am going to try and put an emergency question tonight - about the scandal of metpro and how many other £millions handed out to unvetted firms without contract. they will not allow this of course, but when were democratic rights given and not fought for?

    I intend to object to the new terms they have set for residents' forums."