Security tops the voters' agenda

The headteachers deliver their millennium manifesto to candidates, leaving no room for half measures

Clean, well-lit streets, nice parks, open spaces, trees and a reliable refuse collection are more important to the public than schools, a survey of more than 5,000 people has revealed.

It shows that the services provided by a local authority which the electorate values most are the ones that make them feel safer in their neighbourhood.

However, as many people believed that the top priority for a local authority was improving education standards as thought it was keeping council tax levels down.

Improving standards in schools ranked higher than ensuring everyone had decent housing, providing care services for the elderly, disabled and children and improving the public transport system.

The poll was carried out by MORI for the Local Government Association which replaces the associations of county councils, metropolitan authorities and district councils from next week.

Asked to rate which of a range of local services were the most important to them, three-quarters of the 5,098 people interviewed rated those designed to tackle crime and law and order.

The fire service enjoyed the second highest rating, with two-thirds of the people backing it. In third place was refuse collection, which was supported by 61 per cent.

Less than half said schools were important to them with the primary and secondary sectors enjoying equal billing just 1 per cent higher than pavement maintenance (44 per cent).

In contrast, parks, open spaces and trees gained the backing of half the people, while street lighting, cleaning and road maintenance won the support of 49 per cent.

However, when asked to list the single issue they would like to see as a top priority for a local authority, the same number cited improving education standards and keeping council tax levels down.

Top billing once again went to reducing crime, closely followed by attracting new jobs and business to the area. Third came improving standards in education.

With more and more people now involved in campaigns over cuts in schools, perhaps it was not surprising that almost two-thirds believed local authorities should be able to set the council tax at the level it felt was necessary to deliver good services.

Local authorities are able to raise only 15 per cent of the money spent on local services through the council tax because of successive Government attempts to weaken LEAs.

However more than twice as many people were satisfied with the way their local council was doing its job (52 per cent) than with how Parliament at Westminster is working (23 per cent).

Just under two-thirds were dissatisfied with the way Parliament was doing its job.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you