Local authorities’ impact on quality of life in England 2005
Campanera Alsina, Josep Maria
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The quality of life term is gaining importance day by day. However, its meaning has evolved throughout history from when it was first mentioned by Aristotle until it was given a central role in the UK national sustainable development strategy, launched in 1999. In this context, quality of life is about giving the opportunity to existing and future generations to achieve their potential through education, participation, access to information, good health and full employment. The various public institutions, private organisations and voluntary associations, collectively called the ‘well-being delivery chain’, share the responsibility to create, promote and foster high quality of life conditions. The drive to improve quality of life conditions has always been at the heart of what English local authorities do. However, up to now, local authorities’ activities are assessed through the performance on delivering their own local services, not on assuring quality of life among their citizens. This is going to change radically in the coming years, since this public assessment will evolve further to look at the well-being of local areas rather than the performance of services. So, local authorities will have to learn how to transform good public services into good quality of life conditions. In fact, it represents the shift of the local authorities’ role from local administration to local government. The present study aims to uncover what has been the impact of the local authorities’ performance on delivering services on local quality of life issues. It is believed that local authorities have the power to create and modify quality of life conditions. The study explores empirically the relationship between local quality of life and local authorities’ performance on delivering services at the level of English district in 2005, in the search for correlations between excellence of local public services and outstanding quality of life conditions, or contrarily. The in-depth study of the 2005 quality of life dataset and the 2003/04 report on local authorities’ performance on delivering services form the core of the present research study. Intensive quantitative techniques —ranging from statistics to data mining— have been used to explore data, pinpoint the possible different clusters, correlate indicators, associate phenomena and analyse both datasets. The study has revealed that behind the lower quality of life enjoyed by citizens in inner London boroughs, metropolitan districts and northern unitary authorities —compared to the rest of English districts— there could be a failure in the responsibility of the local authorities to manage their local schools, since a strong association between both phenomena exists.