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Public willing to pay more to protect certain services

Most people would be willing to pay more council tax or one-off levies to fund particular local services across the country, a new report has claimed.

A survey undertaken by YouGov for a report by the think tank Localis, entitled Monetising Goodwill shows the majority of people would pay extra cash as a voluntary one-off levy to help older people to live independently for longer, improve support for local homeless people and improving disability access, among other issues.

The survey also found the top five public services people would pay more per month in council tax are – public health, fire, police, adult social care and children’s social care.

The report also found there were regional variations in attitudes to tax and spending, with residents in the East Midlands the most willing to make bigger tax contributions, followed by respondents from Yorkshire and the Humber and London.

East Midlanders showed a marked preference to pay for better roads with nearly two-thirds (65%) willing to pay voluntary levies to repair potholes – a figure 12% higher than the national average – and the same percentage (65%) happy to accept a hike in council tax bills to boost road maintenance services, a figure 17% above the national figure.

Just under six-in-ten (59%) of those from Yorkshire and the Humber said they would pay a voluntary levy to support homeless people compared to 56% nationally.

And nearly two-fifths (39%) of people from the region would fund schemes to boost Wi-Fi speeds compared to only 30% nationally.

Elsewhere, people in the South East expressed the greatest willingness (64%) to pay extra tax to fund the police while people in the North East were keenest to apply a voluntary levy to reduce dog fouling (40% compared to 32% nationally).

Variations by political allegiance saw Labour voters express themselves more willing to pay extra tax in every service barring road maintenance, where Conservative supporters were as willing to pay extra – with the biggest differences in the areas of social housing, improved sexual health and support for local homeless people.

The agenda for improving local services and policy outcomes will fail if the agenda focuses solely on people paying more tax,’ said Localis interim chief executive, Jonathan Werran.

‘Councils need greater fiscal flexibilities through the Government either raising precept caps significantly or by outright abolishing laws for triggering council tax referendums.

‘But for their part residents deserve a right to choose by voting on spending packages funded by hikes in council tax charges, as well as a say in how extra funds raised by voluntary levies should be allocated to community groups delivering local services.’

The director of the Power to Change Research Institute, Richard Harries, said: ‘The current model of local government funding simply isn’t working and fresh thinking is desperately called for.

‘As well as freeing local authorities to set tax at a level they think best meets local needs, today’s report highlights the way councils can work with the thousands of community businesses across England who are taking on everything from libraries to swimming pools into their own hands and making things better from the bottom up.

‘Many of these organisations raise funds through innovative new ways such as crowdfunding or community share issues, which shows that when people are given a real stake in their community, they are often willing to contribute.’

To read the full Monetising Goodwill report, click here.

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart

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