Survey finds Cambridgeshire residents are happy – but with significant concerns about their current and future lives
Most Cambridgeshire residents feel happy and safe in the county, well connected to their local communities, and believe it’s a great place to raise children – according to the County Council’s first annual Quality of Life survey involving more than 5,500 residents.
But unsurprisingly this less likely to be the case for people in some specific groups, with a stark finding that loneliness in Cambridgeshire is far higher than the national average.
Loneliness was most likely to be reported by those aged 18 to 25, who also reported more struggles with their mental health.
The county council is publishing the results of its survey, which commissioned national independent market research agency Thinks Insight and Strategy, as part of a report to next week’s strategy, resources and performance committee (31 October).
It plans to use the results as a baseline to inform work throughout the autumn by members setting business planning and budget priorities for the coming five years.
The survey will also be used to inform the Public Health Joint Needs Assessment, a mandatory document that local organisations use to identify the health and wellbeing needs of a local population.
The survey found the Council itself plays a relatively trusted role in residents lives, with just over half of residents trusting the Council to make decisions. Views about whether residents agreed that the council acts on the concerns of residents and delivers value for money were in line with Local Government Association averages across England.
Satisfaction with council services was mixed. It was highest across library, waste management, street lighting and registration services, and lowest in road and pavement maintenance.
Residents reported high concerns about the cost of living and that many were changing their behaviour because of it. Two-thirds of respondents reported making at least one change in the past year. Nearly half reported cutting back on heating and just over a quarter said they were cutting back on nutritious food.
“This survey is the most detailed look this council has ever taken into the concerns of local residents and gives us a rich picture of what people of different stages and situations in life are most concerned about,” said council leader Councillor Lucy Nethsingha and chair of strategy, resources and performance committee.
“While I am pleased that so many people report that they feel happy, safe and belong– we can clearly see where this is not the case, which will allow us to consider where we need to target support to make Cambridgeshire greener, fairer and – crucially – more caring given the findings about loneliness and increases in mental health concerns for young people.
“In response to questions about the effect that the current national cost of living crisis is having on our local population – which is something that many years of cuts to council funding across the UK is only making worse - I was particularly concerned to learn that those with dependents under the age of 18 are more likely to report having to cut back on nutritious food.”
“The survey also tells us that three-quarters of those who responded say they have concerns about climate change,” said Councillor Elisa Meschini, Deputy Leader of the council and vice chair of strategy, resources & performance committee.
“With high levels saying they would like our council to do more to protect and enhance the natural environment – which is a huge part of the vision and ambition we have set out as a council and are working to deliver.
“I am heartened to see that more than two-thirds of respondents are open to changing their own behaviours to be more sustainable, from among those who say they are less concerned about climate change overall – although in the current economic situation, this needs to be in a way that saves them money as well as protects the planet.”
“I am not surprised that the survey found that there is some confusion around services the council provides,” said Councillor Tom Sanderson, Independent Group Leader.
“This resulted in residents highlighting services that are not provided by the council in answer to the question about one thing which would improve their quality of life – such as access to GPs, bus services and housing support.
“But this should only serve to help us work more closely with our partners – which we are aiming to do with our closer to communities programme. This aims to increase services delivered locally from a range of venues including libraries.”
It is intended that the survey will be run again next year. Full results of the first survey will be published on the council’s website after next Tuesday’s meeting.
A snapshot of results
• 84% of residents feel safe in, and 75% feel they belong to, their local community - defined as the area within 15-minute walk of their home.
• 72% of residents reported high or very high levels of happiness, with an average score of 7.25, in line with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 2022 national benchmark of 7.45.
• 29% of residents indicated they often feel lonely - higher than national ONS data, of 8% feeling lonely always or often, and 25% felt lonely always, often or some of the time.
• Younger age groups are more likely to report loneliness – including 52% of 18-24s – compared to only 18% of those aged 55+ years.
• 37% of residents reported struggling with their mental health in the last year. This rose to 61% for 18-24s and 59% for 25-34s reporting struggling with mental health in the last year. A significantly smaller proportion of 65+ years report similar struggles (11%).
• 30% of parents reported their child has faced mental health problems in the last year.
• 52% of residents trust CCC to make decisions about services.
• 44% agree that the council delivers value for money, slightly higher than the Local Government Association (LGA) national benchmark of 42%.
• 45% agree that the council acts on the concerns of residents against 40% who disagree, with a high number of don’t knows (16%). This is below the LGA average of 52%, with only 2% unsure - but the two surveys use different answer scales and so are not directly comparable
• 84% of those who use the services say they are satisfied with libraries and registration services, with 83% satisfied with waste management and 78% with street lighting. Park & Ride, the guided busway and trading standards also scored satisfaction levels above 70%
• 76% are dissatisfied with road and pavement maintenance – both a local and national concern. In open questions at the end of the survey, improving road maintenance and fixing pot holes were the most often raised concern.
• 86% of residents are concerned about cost of living increases, as a result 48% have cut back on heating use, 27% have cut back on nutritious food, 8% have used a foodbank and 9% have stopped using prescription medicines.