Tough choices for local councils

The poll asked several questions about issues currently facing local government in Wales. In line with the recent recommendations of the Williams Commission, we asked whether respondents thought that the current 22 local authorities should be reduced in number to between 10 and 12. Here, opinion was pretty evenly divided: 34% favoured no change, while 36% supported reducing the number of councils. This result can hardly be said to be a ringing endorsement either of the status quo or the proposed changes.

Another question in the poll asked respondents to choose between several areas for possible local authority budget cuts. Probably the key message here is what almost nobody thought was acceptable to cut. Only 2% were willing to endorse cuts to social care, 3% to education and 5% to waste collection. By far the most popular area to cut was Senior Council Staff (where 82% nominated this as one area where they would support cuts); 56% were willing to accept the trimming of Welsh language provision, while fairly substantial numbers were also willing to trim building control and planning services (38%) and leisure (31%).

Following recent news stories, the survey asked respondents what they thought would be a reasonable salary for a council Chief Executive. Respondents were told that the current salary range for such officials is between £126,379 and £219,159. None (literally 0%!) supported council Chief Executives receiving more than £200,000; and only 2% endorsed a figure above £150,000. Half of respondents felt that £50,000-£99,999 was appropriate, with most of the remainder thinking the salary should be either a little more than this, or that it should be even less.

Finally, in the context of possible reforms to local government in Wales a few people have raised the possibility of changing the voting system for council elections. So we posed a simple question, asking people what they felt was more important: having a single representative for their local area, or that the overall outcome of council elections fairly represents the support enjoyed by each party. The balance of opinion here was clear, though not overwhelming: exactly half of respondents favoured a single, local representative, while just under one-third (32%) thought that overall proportionality was more important.

  • More detailed analysis of the poll will be provided in several posts over the next couple of weeks on my blog, Elections in Wales (http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/).
  • Professor Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science at the Wales Governance Centre and Director of Research, Politics of Cardiff University.
  • The poll for ITV Cymru Wales and the Wales Governance Centre had a sample of 1250 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov on 10-12 February 2014.