Residents in South Ribble are set to be asked for their views on life in the borough later this year.
South Ribble Council will carry out its first full survey in almost a decade, a meeting of the authority’s scrutiny committee heard.
Locals will be asked for their opinions on a range of issues, including how the council runs services, whether people feel safe in the area and what they think of open spaces and leisure facilities.
Interim chief executive Gary Hall told members that the survey would be carried out by post, to ensure that all residents were contacted and so that the results would be “robust”.
The meeting also heard that the authority intends to give the public “a stronger voice” in the way the council operates, as part of a revised corporate plan for the borough.
Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Matthew Tomlinson, said the ruling Labour group, which was elected in May, had made clear its intention to involve the community in the decision-making process. Public consultations are ongoing into the future of Worden Hall in Leyland and a council tax support scheme for people on low incomes.
“Obviously we are the elected members and, at the end of the day, we will have to make the decisions ourselves, but we can do that in conjunction with – and having listened to – our residents’ concerns.
“However, consultations are not referenda – so it doesn’t mean that if 52 percent pick option A and 48 percent want option B that we’ll be hell bent on doing A.”
Conservative committee member Stephen Thurlbourn asked whether the inclusion of the revised council tax support scheme in the draft of the new corporate plan meant that the authority had already adopted it as a policy and would be “ignoring” the results of its own consultation.
Council leader Paul Foster denied that suggestion, but said that “a new scheme” would be adopted to target council resources at the most vulnerable. The current system means that all low income households must pay a minimum £3.50 weekly contribution in council tax and the authority is consulting on the possibility of removing that requirement.
Meanwhile, the meeting heard that a cross-party working group would be set up specifically to investigate how to engage the public to a greater extent.
Cllr Anna Bylinski-Gelder, cabinet member for community engagement and social justice, described the work as “socialising democracy” – and said the process would attempt to get young people more involved, with proposals to reintroduce a youth council in the borough and establish debating clubs for young people.
But Conservative committee member Karen Walton said that her residents were disillusioned with one of the Labour administration's first acts when it took control – to subsume the My Neighbourhood Forum for the Central Area, covering her Farington ward, into the one for Leyland.
Cllr Foster said that for “all the negativity” Cllr Walton had heard on the subject, he was aware of “far more positive responses”.
“You don’t live there,” Cllr Walton replied.
The operation of the My Neighbourhood Forums, which consider local issues within groups of wards, is currently being reviewed.