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Residents’ survey scores decline for Mid Devon

Saturday, 6 April 2024 11:22

By Bradley Gerrard, local democracy reporter

Tiverton Town Centre (Image courtesy: Mid Devon District Council)

Fewer residents are satisfied with how the council runs services

Fewer Mid Devon residents are content with the way the district council runs services and the value for money it provides compared to a year ago.

In a new survey, just over two-fifths (41 per cent) of respondents said they were very or fairly satisfied with the way the council runs services in 2023, down from 49 per cent in 2022.

And around a third (31 per cent) of residents are fairly or very dissatisfied with the council, compared to 25 per cent previously.

The number of residents who felt the council provided value for money dropped, with 36 per cent believing this to be true – down from 46 per cent the prior year – and 35 per cent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.

The figures were revealed at Mid Devon District Council’s cabinet meeting this week (Tuesday 2 April) and come from a survey that the council uses to gauge the views of residents.

Council leader Luke Taylor (Liberal Democrat, Bradninch) noted that sentiment towards politics more broadly had dwindled, and pointed to the extremely low score that Mid Devon residents said they had in central government.

“The survey shows that 43 per cent or residents trust their local council to make decisions about local services compared to two per cent trust for the government, which is a shocking result,” he said.

He also highlighted that just four per cent of respondents thought local media viewed local councils positively in the last few months. A total of 45 per cent thought it was neither positive or negative.

Some members of the public had asked questions about the survey earlier in the meeting, with resident Paul Elstone saying trust in the council had dropped even though a new administration took control in May last year.

“There are reasons why public trust is in rapid decline and has become worse over the past few months,” he said.

He added that examples included the “full-frontal assault on suppressing public questions at meetings” and the “failure to hold those responsible for the failure of [council-owned housing firm] 3 Rivers Developments to account”.

Mr Elstone and several other residents recently protested about proposed changes to public questions, which they perceived meant that all questions had to be submitted three days in advance.

However, the council acknowledged there had been some “confusion”, and amended its proposal to make it clear that the three-day deadline was only applicable to residents who wanted to receive an answer at the meeting where they would ask their question.

Questions that are not submitted in advance can be answered in 10 working days.

Responding to Mr Elstone, Cllr Taylor added that “people were frustrated with politics as a whole” and that the views of national politics were often transposed onto local politicians, whether that was justified or not.

Cllr Taylor said he believed his party’s strong election win last May, and its recent victory in the Upper Yeo and Taw by-election, where Alex White secured more votes than the other three candidates combined, showed people are behind his party and its plans for the council.

The meeting also heard that some residents are confused about which council – either Mid Devon District Council or Devon County Council – is responsible for which service.

Some people had, for instance, complained about potholes, even though  repairs are carried out by the county council, not Mid Devon.

Councillor Jane Lock (Liberal Democrat, Canonsleigh) also suggested finding ways to incentivise more residents to respond to the survey.

Just 810 people responded to the survey, down from 1,015 last year and out of a population of 82,800 across Mid Devon.

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