PA Sponsored the CCN Conference Survey
PA Consulting were proud to support the annual County Councils Network Conference. PA provided an online poll throughout the conference and this article summarises the feedback we received.
Findings of PA Survey at CCN Conference
If 2016 has shown us anything it is that there is now an appetite amongst voters for radical attempts to address the systemic problems in our society. Our recent survey at the County Councils Network Conference in Guildford suggests that senior county councillors understand this and are increasingly supportive of radical changes to the remit, funding and organisation of local government in England.
Economic Outlook for Brexit
Until the election of President Trump the Brexit vote was the political shock of 2016. Opinion at the CCN Conference was split over the economic outlook for the UK in the 10 years following Brexit, with 46% positive while 39% concerned and the remainder thinking it was too early to tell. There was greater confidence about the next two years with 58% being positive or extremely positive about the prospects for the economy in the run up to Brexit. 65% of the audience thought that withdrawal from the single market or uncertainty over Brexit would be the greatest constraint on growth, while nearly a third thought that lack of skills was the biggest challenge.
Social Care and Health
There is currently widespread concern about the pressures on the NHS and we were keen to find out about delegates views on the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) process and whether they thought it would contribute to solving the challenges of the NHS and social care.
Opinion over the prospects for STPs to be successful over the next five years was split fairly evenly between those who thought they would be detrimental or ineffective (27%), those who thought they would improve outcomes (41%) and those who thought it was too early to tell (32%).
There was much greater consensus on the need for local government to be involved in the governance of STPs with 97% thinking that more responsibility for health and social care should be devolved and 74% indicating that local Councillors should take a leading role and there was unanimity that efforts to integrate the governance of health and social care should continue.
Funding for Local Government
The Conference took place before the funding settlement was announced, however it seem unlikely that the settlement will have changed the view of 80% of respondents who said that councils were unlikely to get a funding settlement that met their needs. Furthermore 83% of respondents agreed that the debate on Council Tax revaluation in England is long overdue.
Devolution and Local Government Organisation
A theme in the discussions at the conference was the disparity in funding settlements between different areas of the country. A significant majority (79%) of respondents agreed that merging councils into larger ones would deliver financial benefits, while there was a nearly unanimous view (94%) that greater fiscal incentives were required to encourage more areas to take advantage of devolution.
The members of CCN understand the scale of the challenges ahead and believe County and County Unitary should have an expanding role to play in building a strong economy and addressing the challenges of health and social care building on their established record of delivering efficient, effective and democratically accountable local public services.
David Rees and Ed Parker, PA Experts in Local Public Services.