In the spring of 2013, M·E·L Research was commissioned by Wychavon District Council to provide research support to assist in the decision making process when the 2014/15 (and beyond) budget was set. The Council conducted an in-house consultation and engagement exercise utilising both online surveys and paper-based questionnaires to gather views from both residents and businesses.
However, the Council additionally wished to appoint a suitable supplier to provide a representative sample of residents’ views via face-to-face interviewing. Following analysis and a review of all of the survey results, including the paper and online feedback, the council also wished to form three focus group discussions, one in each of the key towns of Droitwich Spa, Evesham and Pershore, to further explore issues in greater depth.
Given the mix of urban and rural areas, using our GIS mapping software we identified key population centres across the whole of the Council area to create a stratified random sample of starting postcodes for interviews. 300 face-to-face interviews were then conducted, providing a broadly representative sample with which to compare the self-selection methodologies (paper questionnaire and online results).
Once the results from all three different methodologies had been combined, analysed and reported to the Council, three focus groups were formed to explore the services that residents had highlighted as their most and least precious/important. Residents were recruited based upon their views and, prior to the discussion groups, were sent some additional background reading on the topic areas for discussion; this approached allowed residents to comment from an informed viewpoint, with the relevant facts and figures included.
The subsequent report brought together the quantitative survey results and the findings from the focus group discussions. A formal presentation was made to the full Executive Board with recommendations on which services were felt to be most precious to residents. Participants of the focus group discussions were also invited to attend this meeting and see at first-hand how their views were feeding into the decision making process. The results have directly informed some of the council’s budget decisions and the development of its Grow, Save, Charge Business Plan, which was published in December 2013.