Most people prepared to pay extra tax to fund better local services, Localis report finds

Most people prepared to pay extra tax to fund better local services, Localis report finds

The majority of people would be willing to pay more in council tax or voluntary one-off levies to better fund particular local services across the country – a report issued today by Localis has claimed.

Exclusive polling undertaken by YouGov for the Localis report ‘Monetising Goodwill’ reveals the top five public services people would pay more per month in council tax are, in rank order: public health, fire, police, adult social care and children’s social care.

The survey uncovered six issues with majority support for paying some extra cash as a voluntary one-off levy: helping older people to live independently for longer; support for local homeless people; improving disability access; repairing potholes; reducing loneliness and reducing anti-social behaviour.

Regional variations in attitudes to tax and spending showed residents of the East Midlands were 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.

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

“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.”

Report author, Localis head of research, Jack Airey, said: “Our work identifies the services and issues that the public would be willing to pay more to fund either in tax increases or a one-off levy. As the nation reaches a tipping point on austerity in local services, places should be provided the freedoms and platform to monetise that goodwill.”

Paul Dossett, head of local government at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “Local people are passionate about the key issues in their area.

“Today’s report from Localis shows how willing people are to contribute towards the provision of our public services and help tackle local issues, through both ongoing financial contributions and one off levies.

“The current models of public services are unsustainable and future investment must be driven by local priorities and need. We need to break down the centralised system of government funding and encourage the continued devolution of powers from Westminster to local areas.

“No one knows a place better than the people that live there and local bodies need to be provided with greater flexibility and freedom to encourage local experimentation in the delivery of services.”

Richard Harries, director of the Power to Change Research Institute, 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.”

For more information see the report landing page: Monetising Goodwill – Empowering places for civic renewal