Worcester people say they'd be prepared to join the 'big society'

Would you be prepared to work for free?

Would you be prepared to work for free?

First published in News Worcester News: Tom Edwards by , Political Reporter

MORE than half of people in Worcester are prepared to pick up litter, look after the elderly, staff libraries and drive buses themselves in response to staggering council cuts.

A major annual Worcester survey has shown an unprecedented appetite among the general public to join the so-called 'big society' and get their hands dirty for the greater good.

The shock findings, which were obtained by sending questionnaires to 914 households, show:

- Traffic gridlock again topped the list of what they are most unhappy about for the fourth year running, followed by road repairs

- After revelations around 90 bus routes around Worcestershire are threatened with the axe, public transport is people's third biggest concern

- 38 per cent say litter is either a "fairly" or "very" big problem in Worcester

- 29 per cent say they either volunteer now or would like to do so, and another 32 per cent they would consider it

- Of those respondents, improving Worcester's green areas and open spaces was the most popular task they'd like to help with, followed by helping old people, libraries and public transport

Despite worries over litter 76 per cent are happy with rubbish collections and 87 per cent are satisfied with services for parks and open spaces, suggesting residents blame the public for dropping it in the first place.

The big society findings come after a huge campaign, mainly led by Worcestershire County Council, to get people to volunteer for free.

Over the next year around £30 million is being slashed off services, with city and county council cuts meaning major efforts are taking place to recruit willing residents to help out.

The county council's Act Local campaign has already led to around 3,000 volunteers working in areas like museums, libraries, the arts and archaeology services.

The campaign, which has been marketed via a video, is still developing and now includes efforts to recruit people to work with the elderly.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "In many ways I'm not surprised by the results - whenever we've gone out and asked for responses people have offered help.

"There are so many examples - we had a public meeting in Upton and the hands went up when we asked for people to work in the library, it's the same in Bewdley, Catshill, Wythall, all over." It has previously come under fire from rival politicians, who say the public are being asked to shoulder tasks the public already pay for.

Volunteer Andy Golbourne, 51, who litter picks around St Peter's, Worcester, said: "All it takes is a bit of effort from a few people to make a huge difference."

Pam Clayton, of Battenhall, a parish councillor in St Peter's, said: "I am terrifically encouraged by this, it's so gratifying.

"There's a lot going on around here and more people are helping and turning up at parish meetings.

"Although it's time consuming, it's worth it. Events are pulling people together, it's brilliant.

"We have to encourage and nurture these people."

The survey will be discussed by Worcester City Council's Labour-led cabinet this Tuesday, March 11.

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