§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) which local authorities have sent out surveys to their residents as a requirement by his Department in the last 12 months; and on what issues; 
(2) how many people in England have received questionnaires from local authorities as a requirement by his Department within the last 12 months; and at what cost. 112WS
§ Mr. Raynsford
It is important that all service providers have a clear understanding of the views of their users. Local authorities have for many years sought the views of residents on the quality and delivery of local services using a variety of different methods.
Since 2000–01, authorities have been required to conduct a survey following a common methodology and containing a fixed set of questions. However, there is scope for authorities to include some questions on specific local issues. The surveys are run at three yearly intervals, the second full round is being run during 2003–04. The surveys provide authorities with a ready means to obtain the views of local people. By adopting a common methodology and common questions a national picture can be obtained on the issues of most concern to local people.
The surveys measure the level of satisfaction with the general services provided by an authority and provide the opportunity for feedback about local community issues. In addition, specific questions are asked about residents' views on the benefits, planning, libraries and housing services.
In order to ensure that the results of the surveys are statistically valid, authorities are required to ensure that a minimum sample level is achieved.
As the surveys are conducted by local authorities, either in-house or through an external commission, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not have figures for the cost of the 2000–01 survey. However, as part of the information that is being collected on the operation of the 2003–04 survey, authorities have been asked to provide details of the cost of carrying out their survey. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister have also taken steps to reduce local authority costs by setting up a dedicated website which, amongst other things, avoids the need for authorities to produce their own population sample database. It also provides guidance and templates for running the survey and carries a list of frequently asked questions.