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Brits want a new, local approach

Centralising and outsourcing public services has 'created a broken system'
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The public believes services should be run by local organisations rather than large private companies, according to a survey by Locality, the nationwide network of ambitious and enterprising community organisations.

The poll shows that people are being failed by the vital public services that are supposed to help them, and that many are afraid that services will disappear altogether.

The survey also shows that the UK public is overwhelmingly supportive of Locality’s new Keep it Local campaign (launched on March 24), which calls for public services to be run by local organisations rather than large private sector companies.

Unmet needs

The national poll, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Locality, has found that nearly a third (32%) of people feel that public services are not currently meeting all their needs or the needs of their families. More than 8/10 people (83%) are afraid that, in the future, some public services will cease to exist or will no longer be free of charge.

The research also found that people want community-focused, local services that deliver what they need when they need it, like those delivered by Locality’s members. 72% of people feel that public services should be run and delivered by locally based organisations.

Problems with public services

More than half (57%) of all people surveyed have experienced problems when using public services:

  • Over a third (37%) said they have had to wait a long time to be seen or for an appointment
  • 21% said they have had problems because they were referred to multiple departments for one enquiry
  • A quarter (25%) have experienced problems with having to see different people about the same issue, feeling like they were starting from the beginning each time they tried to access a service

But upscaling and outsourcing to national companies like Atos, G4S, Capita and Serco – which are often seen by government as a solution to public service inefficiency – is making the crisis worse.

‘Almost everybody uses public services. Whether it’s bin collections, visiting your GP, schools for your children or care services for older people, they touch our lives in some way. But Locality’s research shows that the system is letting people down and that they are worried about what the future holds.

‘Our polling results show overwhelming support for our Keep it Local campaign. People are fed up of their taxes being pocketed by massive national companies who give them a tawdry deal.

They don’t want one-size-fits-all services provided by large organisations who work across huge swathes of the country. They want community-focused services designed and delivered at a local level by people who know them and can give them what they need. It’s time the government put communities at the heart of public service commissioning and delivery.’

Tony Armstrong, Locality CEO

False economy

Separate research carried out by Locality and Vanguard Consulting shows the false belief in the economies of scale and standardisation of services is the problem, not the solution. Large-scale, standardised services don’t solve people’s problems – they lead to a drop in quality and a rise in costs.

And the British public agrees. Locality’s polling results show that people value their services and don’t want a second-rate deal provided by national outsourcing companies who cash in on public service contracts:

  • Nearly 8/10 people (78%) say public services should not be run for private profit
  • The same proportion (77%) think that, in principle, public services should be run by the government, local authorities or the voluntary sector, rather than by private companies
  • Nearly 3/5 (58%) would support a slight increase in council tax if it meant they received higher quality public services which met their needs
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) think people should be offered tailored public services to fully meet their needs
  • Over 70% (71%) would support local government and communities playing a key role in the commissioning and delivering of local public services instead of national organisations

<Keep it Local

Locality is campaigning for a better way. The Keep it Local campaign is calling for fully transparent public service contracts which are built around the needs of local communities, as well as new laws to stop large organisations from running too many government contracts and opportunities for small, local organisations to be able to bid for public service contracts.

Locality member Great Yarmouth Community Trust is a multi-purpose, neighbourhood-based community enterprise set up by local people in 2001.

‘Because we are local, we have all of those wider connections to people and to the experience of living in great Yarmouth and that’s the thing that makes the difference to the services that we provide.

‘It’s something that comes from alongside and within the community, not something that comes from the outside, and that enables us to provide services with a local flavour which are much more effective. You don’t get that if you have a uniform approach and deliver the same services everywhere.

‘Our success comes from the relationships and the roots we have in the community, alongside the professional and evidence-based programmes – it’s the combination of those two things that makes it successful.’

Andrew Forrest, Executive Director of Great Yarmouth Community Trust

To find out more about the Keep it Local campaign, visit Locality’s website.

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