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A place to live - Citizens Panel Survey reports highest ever percentage of people feeling safe

26th October 2017

98.1% of respondents consider the area within 15 minutes' walk of their home to be ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ safe compared to 96.7% the previous year. In comparison, 86% of the younger age group felt safe. This is one of the findings of the latest Citizens’ Panel 2017 Performance and Attitudes Survey.

Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson said: "“This is the highest ever recorded figure and again demonstrates what a good place the Highlands is to live and do business."

Each year we survey our Citizens’ Panel on their views on performance and attitudes and the results are used to help inform Council redesign and continuous improvement activity across the organisation.

Overall, the survey presents a picture of mixed performance and demonstrates that we continue to deliver quality services which are valued by the public. The impact of the current and ongoing period of financial austerity, which has seen annual reductions in the Council’s revenue budget, continues to impact on public perceptions of the Council.

A shorter survey of core questions using social media, targeting 16-34 year olds, was carried out in parallel to the main survey to capture the views of young people who tend to be much less represented in these surveys. This was extremely successful and has highlighted some key areas for consideration.

This year we received 955 responses from our Citizen’s Panel of just over 2,340 adults, including 491 electronically, providing a 40.8% response rate. In comparison, the smaller survey of 16-34 year olds generated 357 responses compared to 64 responses from this age group in the main survey.

73% of the panel say they were satisfied overall with Council services with high satisfaction rates for a number of services. 64% of the panel believe the Council meets or exceeds their general expectations, (57% the previous year). This compares to 26.6% of those aged 16-34 (social media responses).

The majority of all respondents reported that the Council maintains good quality local services, listens to local people, provides value for money and is efficient.

The top three most important services for the public are also the top three used by most people; road repairs and potholes, winter road maintenance and refuse/bin collection. Primary and secondary education were also high on the list of important services to 16 to 34 year olds.

The highest levels of satisfaction are found for parks and open spaces, libraries, Primary and Pre-school education, recycling facilities and walking routes. Payment of Council Tax and refuse collection were also scored highly by those who use these services.

Areas where respondents still reported low satisfaction included road repairs and pot holes, with winter maintenance, although scoring low satisfaction, improved on the previous year.

A set of questions around a community engagement, participation and localism, aimed at supporting Council redesign work revealed that 77.2% feel they have no or not very much influence over decision making in their communities. This however compares to 96.9% of those in the younger age group. The main reason given for not having an influence was ‘not enough time’ (28.5%). This compares to the younger age group where the main reason given was ‘public bodies don’t listen to community views’ (61.9%).

This contrasts with 57.3% saying they would like to be very or fairly involved in decision-making in their area, compared to 84.3% of the younger age group.

This is the second year asking a set of questions to gauge the panel’s views on overall satisfaction with their online experience at www.highland.gov.uk

Overall, 70.9% said they were very or fairly satisfied with online services compared to 75.1% the year before. 81% said they would use online services again and 72% agreed that online services were easy to use.

Leader of the council Margaret Davidson said: “I would like to thank members of the Citizens’ Panel for their participation and their views. This is extremely useful and valuable information to inform our thinking on redesign and council priorities. We want to provide the best possible quality of services and to treat people fairly across the Highlands.

“The survey throws a spotlight on how people, particularly the young, feel very disengaged from decision-making in their communities. This is something the Council is working hard to change, with Localism being a key theme in our Council Programme, bringing decision-making process closer to communities and supporting people to become more involved in decisions that affect them.”

She continued: “In the context of reducing budgets, there has been excellent work which has been done to achieve the continued good performance across the Council and I wish to thank staff for the important part they play in delivering these services.”

Chief Executive Steve Barron said: “The results of the survey provide important feedback to us and I am delighted that this year’s report more strongly reflects the views of young people.

“The decline in the some levels of satisfaction is not surprising and is no doubt a reflection of reducing budgets and increasing pressure on services. It is clear that with further cuts projected for the next three years, current service provision is unaffordable. This means we need to place emphasis on redesign and involving the public in how we do things differently in the future.”

The full 2017 survey report, provided by the UHI Centre for Remote and Rural Studies, can be accessed on our the performance web pages at:

https://www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/download/407/how_we_are_performingpublic_performance_reports

This provides further details on trends over time and graphics, including tables and pie charts. As this is a long report, running to 103 pages, a summary including highlights and areas for improvement is provided below. This year we also asked new questions on involving and developing communities and the full report also provides analysis of the short survey of those under 35 years of age using social media.

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