Museums and galleries, tourism and leisure are the three services which have been identified by councillors as most ripe for cuts.
An exclusive survey, carried out by polling firm Comres for LGC, shows that members from across the political spectrum said that museums and galleries (33%), tourism (33%) and leisure (27%) were the three local government services that should be prioritised if cut backs are needed to help remedy the widening public sector deficit.
This finding is echoed by Conservative councillors who are currently the dominant party in local government.
The Liberal Democrats, who have the second biggest number of councillors, departed from the consensus by ranking licensing as their third placed priority for cuts.
The services councillors were most reluctant to cut were children’s social care (3%), street cleaning (4%) and adult social care (6%), according to the survey, which has been published to coincide with the party conference season.
When quizzed on which areas will be cut, members said leisure (37%), roads and highways (33%) and museums and galleries (31%) were the three services most likely to be in the firing line. In addition, 29% said that libraries would be vulnerable to the looming cost-reduction drive, a view shared by 40% of Lib Dem councillors. And 22% of members said adult social care would be part of the first round of cuts, including 30% of Labour members.
Only a tiny fraction (2%) said that their authority should organise a referendum of local residents to decide which areas should receive reduced spending if predicted government spending cuts happen.
This dim view of referenda echoed that of chief executives surveyed in last week’s LGC/Liberata Future of Local Government survey.
Of the Tory respondents 3% backed referenda even though the party’s recent Control Shift local government green paper backed the idea earlier this year.
Just under half (48%) of councillors said decisions on where to cut should be left to elected members, a view most strongly held by Labour members (55%) with 39% of Lib Dems disagreeing.
The poll of councillors follows a separate Ipsos MORI survey, published earlier this week, showing limited public appetite for public spending.
The Ipsos MORI poll, which was commissioned by the RSA, shows that just 24% of the public believe that spending on public services needs to be reduced to rein in the government’s ballooning deficit with 50% disagreeing.
Commenting on the LGC survey’s findings, Ben Lucas, director of the 20/20 Public Services Trust, said: “The danger is that councils are being forced to cut those services that directly affect quality of life and arguably those are the services that give you best impression of the quality of the council.”
Christina Dykes, Political Director (Conservative) of the Leadership Centre for Local Government, said members needed to look firstly at making efficiency savings before “taking the simpler option of cutting services.”
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