Challenge set to “talk up” the Highlands
Each year we survey our Citizens’ Panel on their views on performance and attitudes and the results are used to help inform Council decisions and drive continuous improvement activity across the organisation.
The survey shows that what is important to people is maintaining good quality services, providing value for money, listening to local people and being efficient. The majority of respondents agreed that the Council maintains good quality services, is approachable and helpful and cares for the environment. Fewer respondents viewed the Council as being efficient or involving people in how it spends money.
The three most important services for respondents are still road repairs and potholes, winter maintenance and Primary school education with refuse/bin collection scoring highly. Satisfaction rates were highest for libraries, recycling and bin collection, with the council’s website scoring highly. Road repairs and winter maintenance scored lowest levels of satisfaction.
The result of the survey to 16 to 34 year-olds found that a high percentage (83.3%) of young people said they would like to be ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ involved in decision making in their area. This interestingly compared with just over half of respondents to the main survey who shared this view. Notably, 42.6% of the younger age group felt that efficiency was an important Council quality compared to 16% last year.
Leader of the Highland Council Margaret Davidson said: “Overall, this year’s survey presents a mixed picture. What is crystal clear is that our staff are still delivering high quality services across the Highlands.
“Again, the impact of the current and ongoing period of financial austerity, which has seen annual reductions in the Council’s revenue budget, continues to have an influence on public opinion of the Council. There is clearly a gap between actual performance and perception and this is something we need to understand better. Our performance is high and we all need to talk up the Highlands.”
Chief Executive Steve Barron added: “This survey tells us that public perception is lower than our actual performance. Despite an extremely challenging period, the council’s performance is very positive. 93% of our plan is on target and the picture is generally of our performance being maintained or improved against a range of benchmarks. The lowest levels are in roads and winter maintenance and yet we have spent more on this than ever before, resulting in a greatly improved road network.
“We need to communicate a positive view of our services and the future of the Highlands and build a sense of community pride.”
Councillor Davidson continued: “I am delighted to see that the survey of younger people, using social media, was extremely successful again with much higher response levels than last year. This has highlighted a tremendous interest in getting involved in decisions in their communities.
“It is our intention to launch a programme of public engagement activity next week. There is a very clear message in the survey that people want us to listen to them and they want to be more involved in decisions and I would encourage everyone to get involved in these opportunities to influence our priorities and how we spend your money.”