9 Local Services

Main Findings

In 2017, 51.9% of adults were satisfied with three public services: local health services, schools and public transport.

Satisfaction with the three public services is at its lowest level since first measured in

2007, and down from a peak of 66.0% in 2011 – due in part to a fall in satisfaction with local schools over the same period. The number of people who are very or fairly dissatisfied with local schools has remained stable throughout this period. The reason the number of adults very or fairly satisfied with local schools has fallen is almost entirely due to a corresponding increase from 11% to 25% in the number of people who are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

Satisfaction with the three public services among people who use those services is generally higher than that of the whole adult population, and is more stable over time.

Adults living in urban areas were more satisfied with the quality of the three public services than those in small towns and rural areas – mainly due to greater satisfaction with public transport.

In 2017, around a quarter (23%) of adults agreed that they can influence decisions affecting their local area. Around a third (33%) said they would like to be more involved in the decisions their council makes.

Generally, older adults were more likely than younger adults to say they are satisfied with local government performance and less likely to want to be more involved in making decisions.

Adults living in the most deprived areas were less likely to agree that they can influence decisions in their local area and less likely to want to be more involved in local decision making.

9.1 Introduction and Context

High quality public services which work together and with Scotland’s communities are essential to support a fair, prosperous and inclusive society. The Scottish Government’s approach to public service delivery seeks to place people and communities at the centre of what we do. In particular, it is an approach designed to target the causes rather than the consequences of inequalities; and to make sure that our public services are sustainable.

The National Performance Framework (NPF), which is supported by local councils, contains two National Indicators relating to public services where progress is monitored using data from this section of the Scottish Household Survey (SHS): “quality of public services”, and “influence over local decisions”.

Scotland's 32 local authorities work closely with other organisations (in a range of partnerships, including Community Planning Partnerships (CPP) to plan and deliver a wide range of services that improve the lives of people living in their areas. Under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, community planning is about how public bodies work together and with the local community to plan for, resource and provide or secure the provision of services which improve local outcomes in a local authority area, with a view to reducing inequalities. Each CPP must produce a Local Outcomes Improvement Plan which is collaboratively agreed. Many Community Planning Partnerships use the SHS to assess progress within their Local Outcomes Improvement Plans.

This chapter begins by exploring satisfaction with the quality of local services. It then reports respondents' views on local authority performance and attitudes to involvement in local decision-making.

9.2 Local Service Quality

9.2.1 Satisfaction among all adults in Scotland

The Scottish Government's National Indicator ‘quality of public services' is measured by the percentage of adults who say they are (very or fairly) satisfied with three public services: local health services, schools and public transport. Over the last year, the percentage of adults who said they were very or fairly satisfied with these services decreased from 56.1% in 2016 to 51.9% in 2017, and has decreased from 66.0% in 2011 (Table 9.1).

Looking at the services individually, adults tend to be most satisfied with local health services. In 2017, 82% of adults were satisfied with local health services, compared to 70% who were satisfied with schools and 69% with public transport. Satisfaction with schools has fallen over the last six years, from a high of 85% in 2011 to the current level of 70%, and this is the biggest factor in the corresponding trend in the combined indicator over this period – though satisfaction with the other two services has also fallen since 2011.

Table 9.1: Percentage of people very or fairly satisfied with the quality of public services delivered (local health services, local schools and public transport) by year
Percentages, 2007-2017 data

Adults 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Local health services 81 85 86 86 88 87 85 86 83 83 82
Local Schools 79 81 83 83 85 83 81 79 74 73 70
Public Transport 69 73 75 74 76 72 71 75 74 72 69
% satisfied with all three services* 57.1 61.8 64.9 64.0 66.0 63.0 59.9 61.9 57.5 56.1 51.9
Base (minimum) 6,270 5,500 5,470 5,000 5,510 5,340 5,700 5,720 5,790 6,130 6,260

* Percentages reported for all three services combined are those for which an opinion was given.
* Respondents could express no opinion for up to two of the services. While the base minimum has been quoted here (for the three main services) the base size for the composite “satisfaction with all three services” is for the whole adult sample 9,810.

Figure 9.1: Percentage of people very or fairly satisfied with the quality of public services delivered (local health services, local schools and public transport) by year
2007 - 2017 data, Adults (min base: 5,000)

Figure 9.1: Percentage of people very or fairly satisfied with the quality of public services delivered (local health services, local schools and public transport) by year

* Percentages reported for all three services combined are those for which an opinion was given.

Respondents could express no opinion for up to two of the services. While the base minimum has been quoted here (for the three main services) the base size for the composite “satisfaction with all three services” is for the whole adult sample 9,810.

Table 9.2 provides a more detailed breakdown of satisfaction levels with each of the three public services. The number of adults very or fairly satisfied with local schools has fallen from 85% to 70% since 2011, this is almost entirely due to a corresponding increase from 11% to 25% in the number of people who are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. The number of people who are very or fairly dissatisfied with local schools has remained stable throughout this period.

Table 9.2: Percentage of people very or fairly satisfied with the quality of public services delivered (local health services, local schools and public transport) by year
Percentages, 2007-2017 data

Adults 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Local health services
Very or fairly satisfied 81 85 86 86 88 87 85 86 83 83 82
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 7 6 5 5 4 5 6 5 6 6 6
Very or fairly dissatisfied 12 10 9 9 8 9 10 9 11 11 12
Local Schools
Very or fairly satisfied 79 81 83 83 85 83 81 79 74 73 70
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 17 14 12 12 11 13 15 18 22 22 25
Very or fairly dissatisfied 4 5 5 5 4 3 4 3 4 5 5
Public Transport
Very or fairly satisfied 69 73 75 74 76 72 71 75 74 72 69
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 14 12 11 12 10 14 12 13 12 15 15
Very or fairly dissatisfied 17 15 14 14 14 14 17 11 14 13 16
Base (minimum) 6,270 5,500 5,470 5,000 5,510 5,340 5,700 5,720 5,790 6,130 6,260

Table 9.3 shows the differences in people’s perceptions of public services by urban rural classification. Overall, adults living in urban areas and remote small towns were more satisfied with the quality of public services than those in accessible small towns and rural areas. However, this is mainly due to differences in satisfaction with public transport in remote and rural areas. Satisfaction with public transport in large urban areas was 79%, compared to only 48% in accessible rural areas. Remote rural areas had higher levels of satisfaction with local schools (78% compared to 65% in large urban areas).

Table 9.3: Percentage of people very or fairly satisfied with the quality of public services delivered (local health services, local schools and public transport) by Urban/Rural classification
Percentages, 2017 data

Adults Large urban areas Other urban areas Accessible
small towns
Remote small towns Accessible rural Remote rural All
Local health services 85 79 81 76 86 83 82
Local Schools 65 72 71 78 67 78 70
Public Transport 79 70 57 66 48 51 69
% satisfied with all three services* 58.0 51.4 45.4 52.4 41.0 47.1 51.9
Base (minimum) 1,700 2,210 510 440 640 750 6,260

* Percentages reported for all three services combined are those for which an opinion was given. Respondents could express no opinion for up to two of the services. While the base minimum has been quoted here (for the three main services) the base size for the composite “satisfaction with all three services” is for the whole adult sample 9,810.

Table 9.4 shows the differences in people’s perceptions of public services by level of deprivation, as defined using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) and divided into quintiles[52]. Overall satisfaction with the quality of public services is broadly similar across all levels of deprivation, with satisfaction being higher in both the most and least deprived quintiles due to higher levels of satisfaction with public transport.

Table 9.4: Percentage of people very or fairly satisfied with the quality of public services delivered (local health services, local schools and public transport) by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation quintiles
Percentages, 2017 data

Adults ← 20% most deprived   20% least deprived→ All
1 2 3 4 5
Local health services 80 81 82 83 84 82
Local Schools 71 69 69 70 70 70
Public Transport 74 69 65 64 71 69
% satisfied with all three services* 54.9 50.4 49.6 50.9 53.7 51.9
Base (minimum) 1,070 1,220 1,420 1,380 1,170 6,260

* Percentages reported for all three services combined are those for which an opinion was given. Respondents could express no opinion for up to two of the services. While the base minimum has been quoted here (for the three main services) the base size for the composite “satisfaction with all three services” is for the whole adult sample 9,810.

9.2.2 Satisfaction among service users only

The SHS allows us to identify users of services and establish if the views of service users are different to those of the population as a whole.

Table 9.5 shows satisfaction with the three public services among service users only. Satisfaction with both schools (87%) and public transport (76%) was higher in 2017 among those who use these services than the corresponding satisfaction level for the whole adult population, while satisfaction with health services (83%) among users was similar to the whole adult population. Satisfaction of service users is also more stable over time than that of all adults. This suggests that public opinion of services may be formed by more than current personal experience of those services.

Table 9.5: Percentage of service users very or fairly satisfied with the quality of public services delivered (local health services, local schools and public transport) by year
Percentages, 2007-2017 data

Service users 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Local health services n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 83
Local Schools 90 89 88 88 90 92 90 90 90 88 87
Public Transport 77 80 81 80 82 80 78 82 79 80 76
Base (minimum) 2,040 1,740 1,880 1,650 1,800 1,750 1,820 1,780 1,690 1,740 1,660

1. Users of Local health services not available prior to 2017
2. Users of Local schools identified by whether there is a school child present in the household
3. Users of Public transport identified by whether the respondent has used a bus or train within the last month

9.3 Perceptions of Local Authority Performance and Involvement in Local Decision Making

The Scottish Government’s approach continues to be informed by the findings of the Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services in 2011[53], providing consistent and clear strategic direction built around the four pillars of reform: partnership; prevention; people and performance. This approach places people and communities at the centre of public service delivery and policy making. Perceptions of local authority performance have been collected.

As well as satisfaction with local services, perceptions of local authority performance in the SHS are measured by asking people to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with various statements relating to the role of a local council and the perceived quality of communication and services, involvement in decision making, and value for money.

Figure 9.2: Percentage agreeing with various statements about local authority services and performance
2017 data, Adults (base: 9,810)

Figure 9.2: Percentage agreeing with various statements about local authority services and performance

Figure 9.2, above, shows the percentage of adults who agreed (strongly or slightly) with these statements about different aspects of their local authority's performance. The highest level of agreement was amongst those who said their council is good at letting people know about the kinds of services it provides (43%) and provides high quality services (41%).

The lowest levels of agreement were with statements about being able to influence decisions in their local area (23%) and the council being good at listening to local people's views (24%).

The National Performance Framework National Indicator ‘Influence over local decisions’ is measured as the percentage of adults in the SHS who agree that they can influence decisions affecting their local area.

In 2017, 22.7% of people agreed that they can influence decisions affecting their local area, as shown in Table 9.6. This is an increase of 3.1 percentage points since 2007, and is unchanged[54] since 2015 when the Community Empowerment Act 2015 came into force.

Table 9.6: Percentage of people who agree with the statement 'I can influence decisions affecting my local area' by year
Percentages, 2007-2017 data

Adults 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
I can influence decisions 19.6 21.7 21.8 21.3 22.4 21.5 22.0 23.0 23.6 23.1 22.7
Base (minimum) 10,230 9,250 9,710 9,020 9,660 9,890 9,920 9,800 9,410 9,640 9,810

In 2017, 33% of adults said they would like to be more involved in the decisions their council makes that affects their local area, compared to 23% who felt they can influence decisions affecting their local area (Figure 9.2). In 2017, around a quarter (24%) of adults agreed that their council is good at listening to local people’s views before it takes decisions.

Table 9.7 shows how level of agreement with the nine statements has changed over time. The percentage of people who agree that their local council is good at communicating services and good at communicating performance were both relatively stable between 2007 and 2014. However, since then the percentage who say that their local council is good at communicating services has declined (from 49% to 43%), as has the percentage who say that their local council is good at communicating performance (from 41% to 34%).

The percentage of people who want greater involvement in decisions affecting their local area has decreased since 2007 (from 38% in 2007 to 33% in 2017), while the percentage who think that their local council is good at listening has increased slightly over the same period (from 21% to 24%).

Table 9.7: Percentage agreeing with various statements about local authority services and performance by year
Percentages, 2007-2017 data

Adults 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Good at communicating services 47 48 49 48 49 48 48 49 46 45 43
High quality services 40 42 43 42 44 44 45 47 46 45 41
Good at communicating performance 42 42 41 41 40 41 40 41 38 37 34
Services designed for needs 32 34 38 39 39 40 40 41 40 40 37
Does its best with the money 35 38 36 39 39 40 40 41 41 41 39
Addressing key issues 33 34 34 34 34 35 36 37 36 36 33
Good at listening 21 22 23 23 23 25 25 26 25 25 24
I can influence decisions 20 22 22 21 22 21 22 23 24 23 23
I want greater involvement in decisions 38 37 36 36 36 33 35 34 34 34 33
Base (minimum) 10,230 9,250 9,710 9,020 9,660 9,890 9,920 9,800 9,410 9,640 9,810

All time series data is produced on a consistent basis. Figures published in the 2007 SHS Annual Report may differ slightly for some question statements

Figure 9.3 shows that there are some differences by age group in agreement with statements about local authority services and performance. Generally, older adults are more likely than younger adults to say they are satisfied with the performance statements about local government services and less likely to want to be more involved in making decisions. Around half of 60 to 74 year olds and those aged 75 years and over agreed with the statement that their council does the best it can with the money available, compared to around one third of 16 to 24 and 25 to 34 year olds.

The strongest desire to participate in local decision-making was shown by those aged 35 to 44, with 42% saying they would like to have greater involvement with decisions affecting their local area (compared to 29% for those aged 60-74, and 15% for those 75 and above). Those aged 75 and above were also least likely to feel that they can influence decisions (16%, compared to 25% for those aged 16-44).

Figure 9.3: Percentage agreeing with various statements about local authority services by age
2017 data, Adults (min base: 650)

Figure 9.3: Percentage agreeing with various statements about local authority services by age

Figure 9.4 looks at differences in agreement with statements about local authority performance by the level of deprivation of the area, as defined using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) and divided into quintiles as above. Levels of agreement with most statements were similar across areas, regardless of deprivation levels.

Perceptions of being able to influence decisions and the desire to be involved in decision-making were lower in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas. Adults living in the most deprived areas were less likely to agree that they can influence decisions in their local area (19% in the most deprived areas, compared to 25% in the least deprived areas) and less likely to want to be more involved in local decision making, (30% in the most deprived areas, compared to 40% in the least deprived areas).

Figure 9.4: Percentage agreeing with various statements about local authority services by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation
2017 data, Adults (min base: 1,810)

Figure 9.4: Percentage agreeing with various statements about local authority services by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation

Contact

Emma McCallum