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Councils and the public clash heads over digital success

Although local government is bullish about its ability to deliver new technology, the public isn’t quite as convinced according to new research.

Professional services firm PwC quizzed 125 local authority leaders or chief executives across the UK, along with 2000 members of the public to compile its just-published The Local State 2014 report.

It claims 75 per cent of council leaders and 61 per cent of chief executives polled believe their organisation is delivering better public services through effective use of technology.

The problem: only 29 per cent of the public participants agreed, while 48 per cent want more digitally available services- including 40 per cent of the over 55s.

Furthermore, 36 per cent and 31 per cent of both the under 55s and over 55s surveyed said that they prefer dealing with their local council in person or over the phone.

Public concerned about public funding cuts

Besides attitudes towards use of technology in local authorities, PwC also investigated how respondents felt about finances, service cuts and savings.

The majority (90 per cent) of council leaders and chiefs questioned said they believed some local authorities would get into serious financial difficulty over the next five years and so struggle to deliver essential services.

The research also indicates that the public’s patience with local government funding cuts is growing thin, with only 35 per cent of participants saying they accepted the need to close or reduce services.

Despite this, the report claims citizens’ concern is shifting from the individual to the community, with 58 per cent of those polled saying that their biggest concern about cuts was the impact it would have on them.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that while two-tier local government is unsustainable in its current form, there is little appetite for top-down local government reorganisation,” claimed Jonathan House, PwC Local Government Team.

In the near term, it’s up to countries and districts to work together to create an alternative future for themselves – and quickly, claims House.

“The question remains however, whether these collaborations can deliver the scale of cost savings needed,” he added.