Council leaders, elected mayors, and chief executives have low confidence that they have enough powers and resources available to them to deliver statutory social care services for children and adults, a survey shared exclusively with LGC has found.
Research by the New Local Government Network has also revealed significant regional variations in levels of optimism among all tiers of local government about a range of other service areas.
NLGN asked respondents to rate on a scale of zero to 100 their confidence that councils can deliver social care for adults and children in the context of current financial and legal constraints, with zero being “not at all confident” and 100 being “very confident”. Responses were weighted based on the proportion of respondents both from each council type and region to provide a breakdown of responses.
Leaders, mayors and chief executives from those working for all types of councils, on average, rated their confidence in delivering adult social care and children’s social care at 41.8% and 43.9% respectively.
However, confidence increased to 46.6% and 45.9% for respondents working for top-tier councils only.
The confidence rate for adult social care was highest among those who work for county councils (54%), with those working for metropolitan councils recording the lowest rate of confidence (37%).
County council respondents also provided the highest rating of 54% confidence for children’s social care, compared to the lowest rating of 35% which again related to those working for metropolitan councils.
NLGN director Adam Lent said low confidence among chief executives, elected mayors and leaders in their councils’ ability to deliver their most important statutory duties “should be a matter of deep concern”.
He said: “Often this issue gets caught up in complex debates about funding and demand but what lies behind this survey are rising levels of risk for vulnerable children and adults.
“The government must act urgently to address those risks.”
In response to separate questions on local business opportunities, economic optimism, and employment confidence ranged between 64% and 68% across all tiers. Respondents in the south-east reported the highest level of confidence while those in the north-west recorded the lowest.
However, confidence rates fell to 49.9% overall on the question of whether residents have sufficient income to achieve a decent standard of living. Those in the south-east (60%), as well as London (55%), had the highest confidence rate, while those in the north-east and north-west had the lowest, with 41% and 37% respectively.
The research also highlighted confidence levels on delivering housing to meet demand were the lowest in London and the East of England (both 48%). In contrast, confidence was highest in the north-east (73%).
When questioned on powers and resources to meet health and wellbeing needs, respondents in the West Midlands reported the lowest confidence (46%), while those in Yorkshire and Humberside were the most optimistic (75%).
The survey was sent to 803 council leaders, elected mayors and chief executives and 185 complete responses were received.