You've Chosen - We'll Decide
Northamptonshire County Council has revealed the results of its public consultation exercise, You Choose, which was designed to help identify areas where savings could be made.
With the authority facing a budget shortfall of £100 million over the next four years it decided to ask local residents what services they thought could be cut, and which ones they wanted to save.
The most important service to local residents was highway maintenance, followed by libraries in second place and education in third.
Country parks and open spaces and care for the elderly were also listed in the top five.
To listen to an interview with the County Council's Chief Executive Paul Blanton click here.
Additional services to make the top ten were children's services, fire and rescue, adult social care, care for disabled children and activities for young people.
Road maintenance was also listed as the number one priority in five of Northamptonshire's seven districts and boroughs (libraries were the most frequently listed priority in Northampton and East Northamptonshire).
Libraries were seen as more than a place to borrow books, but also somewhere to access services and for groups within the community to meet. Education was viewed as an essential service with a direct impact on people's lives.
Comments from the public included: "Sort the roads out - the holes are huge. Key priority" and, "Ensuring that we have excellent standard of teachers in schools".
The council also asked residents to name areas where cost savings could be made. The most frequently identified area was inefficiencies and general waste, followed by council salaries, libraries (specifically saving by increasing the number of services available online), highway maintenance (aspects such as speed bumps) and county parks and open spaces. The public also mentioned two other services: education and street lighting.
The results from You Choose highlighted that, even though the county council only receives some 25% of its budget from council tax (with the remaining 75% from national government), many residents believed that council tax funds its entire budget. In addition, people often struggled to differentiate between services provided by the county council, local councils and other local organisations.
Cllr Jim Harker, Leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: "We would like to thank those who contributed their views to the You Choose consultation.
"It was important for us to listen to local residents' opinions on the tough decisions we will have to make about inevitable spending cuts, to ensure that their voices are being heard during this difficult period.
It is no secret that we are facing unprecedented financial challenges, with estimates that by 2014 we will need to save at least £100 million. This challenge is a very real opportunity for us to reshape our services, based around the principle of helping people to help themselves. It is equally important for us to use this feedback effectively, which is why these results will be used as part of future budget reviews. We will be evaluating this information as part of our spending plans, and will communicate our intended actions to the residents of Northamptonshire once this evaluation is complete."
The county council say the campaign generated more than 1,000 comment cards and 61 interviews via video cubes, and more than 20 public debate toolkits were used for groups of at least 36 people. Its website received more than 3,000 unique users.