Pollsters to get council boost

THE OPINION pollsters, strongly criticised by Conservative politicians - among others - for their election predictions, have been provided with a new booming market by the Government.

The polling organisations are to provide the backbone of the information used by its commission that will determine the new structure of local government.

This is part of Conservative plans to shake up local decision-making and get rid of many of the Seventies creations such as Avon and Humberside which have met fierce local resistance.

The Department of the Environment is anxious that the new structures should be acceptable to the bulk of local people.

Local authorities have identified the need to present polling evidence to help bolster their submissions on the shape the reforms should take.

At least one council has commissioned research from Mori, whose findings will be used to make a representation to the new Local Government Commission. This work will be topped up by more research which will be ordered on an ad hoc basis by Sir John Banham's commission when it comes to rule on specific areas.

The commission begins work on 3 August with a review of the functions and structure of the Isle of Wight council. This will be followed by an examination of Derbyshire in early September, extending to all areas in England over the next four years.

Kent confirmed last week that it had commissioned preliminary research on attitudes towards the county, although the commission is not due to examine the area for another two years. Kent and its districts will attempt to agree a joint proposal for reform to put to the Commission. It is likely to be a compromise, with some districts or groups of districts being given independence from the county.

Ministers have ruled that there should be no preferred model for local government, opening the prospect of a patchwork of districts and counties. That is interpreted as a different emphasis from that given by the previous Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine, who favoured the creation of unitary authorities based on districts.

A spokesman for the commission said that several sources of information would be tapped, including census information showing the relationship between home and place of work. Qualitative market research - where a small group of people are questioned closely on attitudes to a range of subjects - will also be used, although no budget has been assigned for polling work. These methods have been pioneered by the political parties as a mechanism for testing strengths and weakenesses of policies and messages.

However, the spokesman added that the commission would treat findings with 'considerable caution', especially if used to back a council's case. Poll findings presented by local councils would be given greater credence if they had been produced by reputable firms and used large samples.

The spokesman added: 'We shall be aware of all the risks of loaded questions, dodgy samples and the order in which questions are asked.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?