England & Wales Press Releases

Only 25% of voters trust the Government to act in the best interests of local people, finds new LGIU poll

Only a quarter of adults aged 18-75 in England trust the UK Government (25%) and the national media (26%) to act in the best interests of people in their local area, finds new Ipsos research commissioned by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) ahead of the local elections on May 2nd and in a general election year.

More than half of respondents consider local councils to have the most impact on the quality of life in local areas (57%), far above the Westminster Parliament (14%). Local councillors (43%) were trusted more to work in the best interests of people in local areas however trust fell behind that of other non-political players: more trusted are police (55%), local community groups (68%) and local businesses (61%). The poll found trust had fallen for all public institutions to act in local people’s interests with 57% of respondents having little trust in local MPs and 53% saying the same about the civil service.

The finding coincides with pessimism in the quality of local services. Nearly half (48%) of all respondents say local services have got worse over the last five years – although this reaches three in five among 55-75s (61%). Among those who think public services are getting worse, more than half put a “great deal” of the blame at the feet of the UK government (53%), with just over a third (37%) holding local councils “a great deal” responsible.

At the same time, the importance of councils is recognised with more than half of respondents (57%) rating them as the institution that had the biggest impact on quality of life in their area. And where services are perceived to have improved, councils, along with community groups, are given the credit.

The annual survey also delves into voters’ attitudes and understanding of local government. Three in five (62%) say they want to know more about how decisions are taken locally / have more say in them – though far fewer want to be actively involved (10%). A plurality  of respondents (45%) supported responsibility for local decision making to be shared between local residents and local decision makers with expertise in these areas.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, LGIU said: “It is depressing, if not altogether surprising, that the majority of the public lack faith in MPs, the Government, and many other public institutions to act in their best interests locally. People see public services in their area getting worse and they are not confident that anyone is going to address this or look after their interests. It is risky to simply accept this as part of life. Declining trust in our institutions is corrosive to positive civic life and has the potential to thwart any regeneration or renewal. Restoring public trust should be a priority for all elected officials. That can, and must, begin with local government.”

Cameron Garrett, Research Manager, Ipsos UK said: “These findings show the public clearly recognise the important role local councils and councillors play, and people trust them more than central government to act in the interests of people in their local area. In this context it is then perhaps unsurprising that there is support for more decision making to happen at the local level. However, outcomes are still key, with people prioritising the right decision being made and still wanting to incorporate decision makers with expertise. Certainly, the public are not impressed with current outcomes with nearly half saying the quality of local services has worsened over the past five years, and trust declining across nearly all stakeholders to act in the best interests of local people.”

On Tuesday 23 April at 10:00 via Zoom, LGIU’s State of the Locals election experts panel will bring together political and local government experts to share their predictions and ones to watch ahead of the 2024 local elections, reflecting on this new and exclusive polling. Speakers include Cameron Garrett (Research Manager, Ipsos UK), Dr Hannah Bunting (Lecturer in Quantitative British Politics), Dr Greg Stride (LGIU) and Jonathan Carr-West (Chief Executive, LGIU). You can RSVP here.