Understanding the views of residents

Do you know what your residents think of your council? Are they happy with the way you run things, the value for money they receive, and do they think you keep them well informed?

The answers to these questions are vital for councils wanting to understand their communities, improve their services and direct their resources at the issues that matter most– factors that are increasingly important as councils try to balance reduced budgets with greater responsibilities as leaders and shapers of place. This resource has been developed to help you understand what your residents think of your activities, priorities and services and outlines how the Local Government Association can help you conduct valuable and informative surveys and consultations.

The extent to which residents feel informed and engaged by their council, and the trust that they place in them, directly affects their views about their council and the services they receive. This in turn impacts on their levels of satisfaction and ultimately, a council’s public reputation. Conducting a residents’ survey provides an opportunity to understand what your communities think and offers you valuable insight into how your organisation is perceived by your wider community. It also helps you to demonstrate your transparency and accountability to the people you serve and helps you to monitor, and address, any changes in satisfaction levels over time.

Surveying your residents is also important to help shape strategy, messages and channels. Understanding how residents consume information, and more importantly would like to, enables you to develop messages that resonate with your communities – something that is critical for building trust and confidence in your organisation. It also helps you to make sure that the way you communicate about your services is reaching the people you need to -  opening up the opportunity for residents to help shape how you as an organisation improve services, change lives and create places that people want to live, work and invest in.

Getting started on a residents’ survey

Before you start any survey or consultation process it is useful to ask a few key questions:

  • Is the information we need held anywhere else in the council? Do we need to conduct a survey or consultation exercise at all?
  • What changes or decisions do you want to be able to action or inform as a result of the survey?
  • Do other parts of the council or partners have an interest in this work and have they been consulted?
  • Are there survey, research, consultation or analysis experts within the council who you can go to for advice or assistance?
  • What budget do you have available, if any? Should you commission an external research company or undertake the research in house?
  • What method do you want to use? Postal, telephone, face-to-face or online surveys are all possible, and this document discusses the approaches that are best suited to specific local situations. 
  • Who do you want to survey and do you have contact details for them? Ensuring a high quality contact list can often be a challenging aspect of a survey, but it is important to ensure that you are targeting the right groups to gain maximum value from your survey.
  • When do you need the results? It is easy to underestimate how long it takes to conduct a survey – you need to ensure sufficient time to consult internally on the questions, conduct the fieldwork (at the LGA we prefer to give at least four weeks for respondents to complete our surveys) and undertake the analysis.

Highlighted pages

Research and surveys