Our latest NLGN Leadership Index focusses this year on two big topical themes for local government: Brexit and prevention. With Brexit dominating the news agenda we asked local government chief executives and leaders about its impact on community cohesion.
And with Government aspirations to move towards a healthcare system much more geared towards prevention, we thought it an opportune moment to ask councils if there is a difference between their aspirations and reality on prevention.
This fourth quarterly survey is also an opportunity to explore trends in confidence over the last year. We look in depth at indicators of business confidence and some key service areas.
Here are four key take-aways from the NLGN Leadership Index January 2019.
1. Concern that Brexit is harming community cohesion
More than half of councils believe that Brexit is impacting negatively on community cohesion in their area, with 52.8 per cent of respondents voicing this statement compared to 45.6 per cent of councils who think Brexit is neither impacting positively or negatively on community cohesion.
Drilling further down into these results, we can observe sharp differences across regions and the varying political leadership of councils. 73.0 per cent of councils with a Labour majority believe the impact of Brexit on community cohesion is negative, which contrasts with 35.4 per cent of councils with a Conservative majority.
Some regions expressed greater concern about the negative impact of Brexit on community cohesion, the North East, South West, West Midlands, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all reported a negative impact to an extent greater than the average. The South East by contrast, is the region least concerned about the impact of Brexit on community cohesion. More detail on how Brexit is impacting community cohesion is in this blog HERE.
2. Councils want to nearly double their resource allocation for preventative measures
We found a significant gap between aspiration and reality on prevention spend for councils. Respondents were asked to state their current level of resource being spent on prevention, and what their ideal would be. The gulf between average scores on both questions is striking. Councils are currently spending an estimated 27.8 per cent of resources on prevention, but ideally, they would spend almost double – 47.4 per cent.
3. Confidence in the optimism and opportunities for local business has deteriorated over the last year
Every quarter we ask about confidence in a range of local economic indicators. Confidence in the business environment and business opportunities stood out as two areas in which scores have steadily declined across the four quarters. On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 100 (highest) optimism in the local business environment stood at 66.6 during the first quarter results published in March 2018, this has reduced to 60.1 in this most recent survey, a decline of 10 per cent. While less steep, confidence that businesses have sufficient opportunities to thrive has also reduced over the four surveys – from 67.9 in the first quarter to 64.8 in this the most recent quarter.
Low levels of confidence in the optimism and opportunities for local business may be linked to the on-going uncertainty surrounding Brexit and how a final settlement with the EU will impact businesses.
4. Overall confidence in key service areas has declined over the last year, but there has been a notable uptick in the last quarter
There have been overall declines in confidence for most service areas between the first and fourth quarters: adult social care, children’s services, economic development and environmental services. While there has been an overall increase of 2.7 for housing, and 0.1 for health and wellbeing, from the first to fourth quarter.
Yet at the same time, there was a notable uptick across various service areas between the third and fourth quarters. Confidence in both adult social care and children’s services increased between the third and fourth quarters, for example, from 34.8 to 40.5 and 35.7 to 41.8 respectively. It is worth noting that the Autumn Budget 2018 included a funding boost for adult social care, which may have influenced the increased confidence observed in this current survey.
Confidence in health and wellbeing and housing also increased between the third and fourth quarters. For the former, this increase was from 49.6 to 55.3, and 49.1 to 55.8 for housing. The Autumn Budget 2018 contained an announcement that the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap for councils would be lifted, which may have influenced the increased confidence reported by respondents on housing. Results from the next quarter will provide the opportunity to assess whether increased confidence in these service areas has been sustained.
To read the findings in full, you can download the full NLGN Leadership Index January 2019 HERE.