Survey says vast majority in Horsham District ‘satisfied’

THE VAST majority of residents are satisfied with the district of Horsham as a place to live, but fewer than ten per cent are ‘very satisfied’ with the job Horsham District Council is doing according to the survey.

The report commissioned by Horsham District Council reveals that even less, only four per cent, strongly agreed that the council takes account of residents’ views when making decisions.

Some 53,000 copies of the survey were posted to households last summer, but only 996 were completed by the district’s 126,000 residents.

Furthermore, the respondents were branded moaners by independent research consultancy Abacus Insight which analysed the results.

The consultants stated: “Bear in mind people are more inclined to participate if they have something to complain about - others less likely to say anything.”

Some 30 per cent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that their views were listened to, but 43 per cent had no opinion and 28 per cent disagreed.

“One gets the impression that much consultation is a farce, going through the motions but rarely listening or taking notice of what residents say,” said one respondent, who added: “Stop wasting money on publicity and self-promotion and spend it on services and facilities.”

The issue is a hot topic this week with the Tory administration at the county council being lambasted by the Lib Dem opposition for spending £1 million on PR whilst the young, old and vulnerable suffer serious cuts to services. (see p6)

In the Horsham survey, another resident commented: “I dislike Horsham Council pretending to consult over issues when in fact they have already made their mind up.”

Meanwhile, other comments spoke of a disconnect between elected representatives on the council and residents.

One explained: “We are asked to elect representatives to serve on the council and they send out election leaflets. We then never see them or hear them or have anything from them until the next year, although they seem to draw allowances for attending meetings. It would be nice to see them in the district talking to and visiting residents.”

To combat this the report suggests: “Communication (as ever) must be the key to improving perceptions, ideally with more contact between local councillors and residents.”

Almost half of respondents were apathetic about whether HDC provides value for money, how well the council is run and whether the council was a strong leader in the local area.

But a respondent did comment: “You seem to waste money in everything you manage.”

However, despite major financial concerns with the council’s new Acorn Plus refuse collection system that could prompt constitutional change at HDC (see p4), it was highly rated.

The majority also agreed that the council was helpful when contacted, whilst 59 per cent said they got their information about HDC from the County Times.

Some respondents did argue that resources are too focused on Horsham town and less so on the rural parts of the district.

Other concerns listed were lack of facilities for young people and service reductions for the elderly.

The council published selected results from the survey on Acorn Plus last week, and says the full results will be released in the next few weeks.

For more on the survey’s findings, including a statistical anomaly, see page 2.