A large majority of chief executives and senior officers believe central government is having a negative impact on both their council and local government in general.
When asked as part of the LGC Confidence Survey to rate the effect government policies are having, 88% of respondents said they were ‘bad’ for both the sector as a whole and their own council. Taking chief executives’ responses only, the response was 100% for the sector and 88% for their own council.
However, the figures overall are a slight improvement on 2017, when 93% said the government was bad for the sector and 90% believed it was bad for their council.
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Confidence that the UK economy will be stronger in a year’s time under the current government is low. Just under three-quarters (73%) said they were doubtful the economy would improve, with 7% confident it would. The remainder said they were undecided.
impact on local government
The majority of the responses to the survey were submitted before recent announcements on social care funding and the lifting of the borrowing cap.
No senior said they were confident councils would be listened to by central government, while 85% said they were doubtful or very doubtful this would happen.
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A slightly larger proportion of officers are undecided on devolution, collaboration with local agencies and flexibilities on spending. However, 70% said they were doubtful further devolution would proceed and two-thirds had the same view for local agencies collaborating to make further savings. Overall, 78% said they were doubtful councils will have more control over budgets and how they spend central government funding.
Confidence was also low in housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire and his ministerial team, but a significant proportion of respondents remain undecided.
When asked if they would engage and consult local government on policy development, 66% of respondents said they were doubtful this would happen, while 28% said they were neither confident or doubtful.
Confidence that Mr Brokenshire and his team are fair and reasoned critics of local government was also low, with 59% doubtful this was the case and 37% undecided.
Just 12% of officers said they were confident the secretary of state and his ministers champion local government in Whitehall and 18% believed they understood the sector.
However, confidence in the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s team has improved since Mr Brokenshire succeeded Sajid Javid in May.
Last year’s survey found 8% of officers were confident Mr Javid and his ministerial team understood local government, while 89% were doubtful they would champion local government in Whitehall.
When asked the same questions about Labour’s shadow ministerial team, 19% of respondents said they were confident opposition members understand local government and 20% said they would champion local government in Whitehall.
*Net confidence is the percentage of respondents who were either confident or very confident, minus those who were doubtful or very doubtful
Click through graphic below to compare years:
LGC survey: Confidence in government rises but still very low