Public satisfaction with council services has fallen by up to 30% in the wake of the Covid pandemic, a new survey has revealed.
A residents survey carried out by East Lothian Council ahead of Christmas 2021 has reported a dramatic fall in people’s positive view of the local authority’s work.
And it found public faith in other public services had also taken a hit with satisfaction in Hospital A&Es falling from 95% in 2019 to 39% in 2021 and GP services dropping from 87% to 37%.
In the report Paolo Vestri, the council’s service manager for corporate policy, said the 2021 Residents’ Survey was undertaken in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And he pointed out that while the previous 2019 survey was carried out with face-to-face interviews and talking to people on doorsteps, the 2021 survey was carried out using forms people could fill in at home and online.
He said: “The impact on public services and perceptions of services after 20 months of lockdown and restrictions, along with the growing anxiety felt by residents as the Omicron variant took hold in late 2021, would have influenced the responses to many of the questions asked in the survey.
“The results to some of the questions about quality of life and satisfaction with services suggest that the impact of the pandemic might have contributed to a reduction in positive responses to questions by as much as 30%.”
The survey saw a drop in satisfaction in services across the board ranging from parks, garden and open spaces services falling from 98% to 71% compared to 2019 while the council’s support for frail/older people saw public satisfaction fall from 87% to 32%.
Mr Vestri said the decision to carry out the survey in late 2021 as the Omicron variant sparked concern and people were worried about Christmas had been “brave” by the council.
And he pointed to the fall in public happiness with other services such as the fire service, which saw it drop from 97% to 66%, as evidence people’s general views were impacted by Covid.
His report said: “The decrease in satisfaction with public services generally, and increased anxiety and concern due to the pandemic, is evident in the reduction in satisfaction with the fire service recorded between the 2019 and 2021 surveys.
“Since there was only minimal disruption to the fire service as a result of COVID-19 lockdown and there was little diminution of fire services during this period, it is hard to explain the 30% reduction unless it is due to a general increase in negativity, anxiety and concern caused by COVID-19.”
Mr Vestri said the results of the 2021 residents survey provide a base for future surveys to show how the council is performing post Covid as it moves forward.
He said “This is a starting point for us to use in future years to measure how we have responded with our Covid recovery plan. And how we move forward.”