New polling: Public back community-powered solutions to national crises

May 9, 2022  

New Local has been to the polls (and focus groups), asking people from across the UK for their views on some of the biggest crises facing the country – and who can solve them.

We found trust in national politicians at a catastrophic low, with a lack of faith in Westminster to help solve the cost of living crisis, deliver Levelling Up, or address issues in the NHS.

But we also found a warmth and appetite for community-led solutions, with large proportions in favour of devolving power away from central government and towards the people living with the impact of these crises.

Our key findings:

There is a fundamental lack of trust in Westminster politicians to tackle national issues

Particularly the mounting cost of living crisis, where 66% were unconfident in Westminster’s ability to solve it, 14% were confident and 20% were neutral or didn’t know.

…and an overwhelming sense of disconnect from those at the top

“[Politicians] are all in board rooms and offices, not out on the street, so they don’t actually see what’s going on. They just go by what they’ve been told, by people that aren’t on the streets, they just go off what they think is happening in the world and decide based on what they think they should be seen doing.” – Focus group participant

People wanted more control over issues that affect them

The common-sense idea that good decisions are made closest to the people they affect attracted broad support. Three-quarters judged community-led decisions as both better and more cost-efficient.

“You want to be part of the conversation, not just dictated to.” – Focus group participant

… including powers to tackle the cost of living crisis

“During Covid, we had a lot of people who set up charities. They’ve received funding now and they’re blossoming.” – Focus group participant

Local leaders were the most trusted, with councils in the middle and MPs trailing behind

Most people support full funding of councils to harness community power

We see a decent funding settlement for local government as a key way to ensure community power can flourish, and 79% of those surveyed agreed.

“I like the sound of local communities working together with the council. It sounds positive and beneficial.” – Focus group participant

“It’s the collaborative effort – you want to work with, not kind of be left to your own devices.” – Focus group participant

Most thought community power should be politically committed to – and legislated for

As part of the We’re Right Here campaign, New Local is calling for a Community Power Act that would give communities legal rights over public spaces, services and spending. And would create ‘Covenants’ – or power-sharing agreements between councils and communities. More than 7 in 10 of those surveyed agreed with this legislative change.

“It’s about pride. Having pride in the bit of green space outside the front of my house, could I put trees on there? I can’t do that because I don’t own the land, but if it was a community space and I was able to plant some saplings on the grass […] that can only be a good thing.” Focus group participant

….and would vote for a national politician who backed community power

Nearly a quarter selected the strongest possible support for a politician with a community-power mandate. Nearly three-quarters signalled some level of support.

“You can make the changes because you know what you want changing. Other people who don’t live in the area are making the changes and they don’t know.” – Focus group participant

“Communities should have more say in decision making and asked what they want. We never get a real say in what is happening, they should be given more power by being able to do that.” – Focus group participant

Overall, we discovered that community power is an idea the public supports, and is a potential vote-winner. Now its time for politicians to start embracing its potential to address our burning crises, fix trust and tap into the potential in all our places.

Notes on methodology

  • New Local commissioned Britain Thinks to conduct this research.
  • It involved seven 90-minute qualitative focus groups (8 – 24 March 2022) and an eight-question online survey of a nationally representative survey of 2,164 adults (8 – 10 April 2022)
  • We will be publishing more detailed findings in the near future.

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