Councils up and down the country are continuing to have their budgets reduced therefore they need to make some difficult decisions about the level of services they can continue to provide in the future. To maintain and develop services, councils need to find savings - for Cambridge City Council this meant finding savings of around £2 million over the following 5 years.
To better understand residents’ views and help inform the Council’s transformation plans and budget for 2017/18, Cambridge City Council commissioned M·E·L Research to undertake a consultation with residents and businesses on approaches it could take.
The research was carried out in September 2017 and a mix of methodologies was used. To understand residents’ experience of using council services and their views on various approaches, a postal survey was sent to a random sample of Cambridge residents. Overall 455 residents took part in the consultation. The council also wanted to gain views from businesses, therefore an online survey was sent, with 74 businesses responding. Focus groups were also held with residents living on low incomes and with those who tend to be under-represented in consultations run by the City Council. The focus groups gave the council an opportunity to ‘dig a bit deeper’ and explore what this group thought. The groups were held at local community centres in areas with higher levels of deprivation.
The results provided insight into the levels of awareness amongst residents and businesses of need for Cambridge City Council to reduce its budgets and gave a steer on what they thought about different approaches the council could take to save money. Results were varied amongst the groups of people who gave views. The qualitative results supported some of the mainstream views expressed in the sample but also revealed that people living in disadvantaged communities had a greater interest in the services they relied on, such as housing maintenance and repair. The Focus Groups also provided further ideas about how the Council might deliver some of its services more efficiently.