Senior council officers’ confidence in the UK’s economic prospects has surged despite a deepening pessimism that the proceeds of this growth will reach local services, exclusive LGC research reveals.
Our latest confidence survey of 238 council chiefs, directors and senior managers found net confidence that the UK economy would be stronger in a year’s time had rocketed from -57% just six months ago to 32% today.
Senior figures were also less concerned than six months ago about barriers to local growth and less likely to report difficulties in accessing investment.
They were less confident than ever that their services would share in the proceeds of the economic recovery.
Ninety-nine per cent of respondents said they did not believe their council was “over the worst” of the cuts, up from 95% six months ago.
Confidence that adult social care - the largest area of spend for many - would be protected from further cuts was -72%. In May this year, confidence that this service had so far been shielded was -19%.
Waste services, which according to LGC’s regular confidence barometer have been largely protected since 2010, also face being slashed.
Six months ago respondents gave a net confidence score of 20% that waste had been protected from cuts, but this month there was -56% confidence such protection would continue.
LGC’s research also found that most senior officers believed many residents had not yet experienced damaging reductions in services.
Eighty per cent of respondents said public satisfaction with their council’s services had stayed the same or improved since 2010.
The findings led LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell (Con) to warn about the prospect of an electorally damaging “mismatch” between voters’ own financial situations and the quality of local services in the run-up to the 2015 general election.
“If the economy does accelerate and if people can feel it in their pocket, they will notice a mismatch between that and the reduction in local services they will also be experiencing,” he told LGC.