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Move over number 10, local councils hold greater sway

• More than half of UK citizens believe local government has more of an impact on their day-to- day lives than number 10
• Geography plays a role in the influence of Whitehall
• e-voting gets support ahead of forthcoming May local elections

A new study from ntl:Telewest Business has revealed that local government issues are far more important to Brits’ daily lives than central government. More than 50 per cent of British citizens believe that local government issues such as council tax, crime-fighting and education far outweigh the central government mandate of data protection, national security and foreign policy. Meanwhile, the availability of high-speed broadband has meant that Brits would prefer to have more council services available online, with almost half of the UK population giving their support to e-voting.

Interestingly, Scots place far more importance on local government issues (62 per cent) than those in London (42 per cent). In fact, the further away you are from London, the less likely you are to think central government has an impact on your day-to-day life. Devolution of central government responsibilities over time has led to greater powers for local authorities. However, voter apathy has led to low poll turn-outs over recent years.

With the UK local elections set to take place on 3 May 2007, 46 per cent of Brits say that e-voting would make them more likely to turnout. The younger generation is more pro e-voting with 57 per cent of 18-34 year olds saying it would make them more likely to vote -- whilst only a third (36 per cent) of over 55’s agreed with them. So there appears to be a significant age divide. With this in mind, there is responsibility on government to make it easier for people to vote on the issues that matter most to them, bringing people back to the ballot box. Faster broadband and secure networking technology is making it easier for local government to do this.

This year, Whitehall has announced that 13 local authorities will trial alternative voting methods including internet voting, telephone voting and central polling stations for the electorate to vote from outside their local polling districts. This builds upon UK e-voting trials which have been happening since 2003.

Christopher Small, Director of Public Sector at ntl:Telewest Business, said: “An estimated 10m UK households use broadband to access the internet and there are an estimated 4,789 local libraries in the UK that offer free internet access. Local government is often a shining example of how to provide online services, as such allowing local citizens to vote online would be very much in keeping with the digital age in which we now live. Trialling this tactic at a local government level should pave the way for e-voting in general elections, where voter turnout is also on the decrease.”

The ntl:Telewest Business research also showed that British people want more interaction with their local council on other key services. These include recycling and council tax payments, although almost 40 per cent of those questioned have no idea whether their local council already provides online access to these services.

According to the study:

* 33 per cent of respondents communicate with their local council via telephone
* 24 per cent of UK citizens contact their council via email or through an online portal
* It’s still popular to visit the local council in person (9 per cent)
* Brits still write in to their council with 6 per cent preferring to send a letter
* Given the opportunity, UK citizens would like more communication with their council especially in terms of handling complaints and quicker response times. An online forum to debate council matters and online voting would also be popular

“Council’s have invested significant resources into building online services over time. Local government simply needs to do more to educate people on what’s already available today. They also need to continue to invest in technology to improve and add to online services,” Small concluded.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,287 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd - 5th April 2007. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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About ntl:Telewest Business

ntl:Telewest Business, part of the UK’s second largest fixed-line telecommunications company, is a leading communications provider to businesses, public sector organisations and service providers in the UK. It delivers a complete portfolio of voice, data and internet solutions nation-wide.

ntl:Telewest Business sales and support teams are located across the UK, in close proximity to our customers, as part of a commitment to deliver superior customer service.

ntl:Telewest Business delivers services over the Group’s £13bn investment in its state-of-the-art infrastructure giving business customers access to the largest alternative network in the UK.

ntl:Telewest Business is trusted to provide critical communications to high profile customers including: Heathrow's Terminal 5, Birmingham City Council, Cambridge County Council.

For further information go to www.ntltelewestbusiness.co.uk.

ntl:Telewest Business press contacts:

Tara Flanagan, PR Executive
ntl:Telewest Business
T: 01256 753101
E: tara.flanagan2@virginmedia.co.uk

Gerry Grewal, Press Office
Rainier PR
T: 020 7494 6589
E: ggrewal@rainierpr.co.uk

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Speed Communications in the following categories: Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal, for more information visit http://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.