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Greater consultation could boost citizen satisfaction, research suggests

A UK-wide survey also reveals that more than 80 per cent of citizens have never taken part in a public consultation regarding a local matter.

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Will digital channels encourage citizens to give their opinion?
Will digital channels encourage citizens to give their opinion?

The majority of citizens would be more inclined to give their opinion to local government if they could use digital channels, such as a mobile app, instead of the traditional consultation methods.

 

This is one of the key findings in a survey that reveals citizen satisfaction with local authorities in the UK remains low, especially among younger people.

 

Citizen demands

 

The UK-wide survey, carried out by govtech start-up Novoville in partnership with the Society for Innovation, Transformation and Modernisation (Socitm) and start-up accelerator Public, finds that while satisfaction levels have increased slightly since 2017, only 13 per cent of UK residents are completely satisfied with the services that their council provides.

 

It appears that citizen demands haven’t changed a great deal since the last survey was undertaken in 2017. and ranking top are faster resolution of issues in neighbourhoods, improved personal communication, and greater financial transparency.

 

The research revealed a significant lack of participation in public consultations: 81 per cent of respondents stated that they have never participated in a public consultation regarding a local matter.

 

Novoville states that the low level of civic engagement appears to stem from the way consultations are being conducted: the majority of respondents said that they would be more inclined to give their opinion to their local government if they could use digital channels, such as a mobile app, instead of the traditional consultation methods.

 

The company added that rising expectations by digitally-savvy citizens and continued budgetary pressures are driving local governments to change the way they engage with the public and reconsider their approach to digitisation. Having grown accustomed to rapid communication and smartphone-driven lives, people are demanding more of their local authorities.

 

“We need to look at demographics and develop our understanding of why different groups interact with digital delivery and how we can improve accessibility for everyone.”

 

“Our research highlights the issues that people face today and the areas where they feel their local government should improve the most,” said Fotis Talantzis, CEO and co-founder of Novoville, whose cloud-based civic engagement platform is used by over 50 local authorities and more than two million citizens.

 

“Utilising this information can help decision-makers create a mutually beneficial relationship with citizens and communities, by making their service design and delivery more effective and citizen-centric.

 

“Digital can become the vehicle to achieve this, without creating new cost and support burdens.’

 

Among the cities to make use of the Novoville platform is Athens, which claimed to save 720 man-hours, reduced call centre volume by more than third and increased efficiencies by a quarter within five months of operation.


Sandra Taylor, Socitm president and head of digital and ICT services for Dudley Council, said it is vital that the public sector explores ways in which it can win the trust of service users.

 

“We need to look at demographics and develop our understanding of why different groups interact with digital delivery and how we can improve accessibility for everyone," she said. "To do this, we need to consult with our communities and discover how to design and develop fully inclusive services for all.”

 

The survey was conducted by disseminating a set of questions and included the use of conversational chatbots and context-aware mobile polls. Data was then normalised in order to obtain a representative sample that reflected the actual demographic characteristics of the UK population.

 

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