Author: Mrs Kate Graddock
This page is designed for young people aged between 13 - 16 years old. This information will tell you what public services are, and about the public services provided in our local community, Barnstaple. By the end you will know what is meant by public services, what public services are located in Barnstaple, their value and purpose, how they work and what everyone’s roles (including yours) are in providing and maintaining them.
The Information booklet that goes with this page, can be downloaded here. There is a map showing the various public services in Barnstaple and a quick quiz to test your knowledge of the information on this page. Good luck!
WHAT IS A PUBLIC SERVICE?
Public services are services that people need, like college, the Police, buses or the library. Often they’re free so that everyone can use them – like seeing your doctor – and they are usually there to protect, support or advise people, especially if they can’t afford to pay.
Public services are often funded through the tax payers and delivered by the Government and your local councils but can also be provided by other sources, such as ‘not for profit’ organisations (which aren’t part of the Government but don’t make money out of the services they provide).
Public services can be
* Statutory – This means the service must be provided by law.
* Mandatory – This means there may be a law to provide the service but the level of service is up to the people delivering the service
* Discretionary – This means the service doesn’t have to be provided.
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF A PUBLIC SERVICE?
We use the term ‘public value’ to describe the benefit we get from a public service. Only the public can decide what is truly of value to them. Your own preferences are formed socially in your family, amongst your friends and in public debates. The more we value a service, the more confidence we have in that service and the people who provide it.. We are lucky to have many public services in Barnstaple that are valued by the local community.
Imagine the town without a hospital, a school or even a skatepark. The public also shows the value of their public services by the power and money that they give to the Government. This could mean that at an election, people would vote for the person who would support keeping your hospital, your skatepark or providing a new service that Barnstaple wants. People might even vote for higher taxes to pay for it. How much we value a public service is often judged by how much we are prepared to pay in tax for it.
ROLES WITHIN PUBLIC SERVICES
Parliament – There are 650 Members of Parliament who are elected by the people, called the House of Commons. Each Member represents a different place. There are also about 800 Lords in the House of Lords. The Commons and Lords make up Parliament. Only Parliament can make laws. It is each member of Parliament’s duty to ensure the views of their local residents are heard. These people are important in ensuring that the public services debated at The House of Commons are delivered best for the community. The House of Lords is not elected and has less power than the House of Commons – its role is usually to check and challenge the work of the Commons, but not to stop laws from being made.
Member of Parliament - The MP for North Devon (including Barnstaple) is Peter Heaton-Jones. He is the link between Parliament and the people! He is elected, which means that he won a public vote. His duty is to make sure he represents and fights for the best possible outcomes for his community.
Picture above is Peter Heaton-Jones MP (Google Images:2017)
Local Councils – In our area there are three levels of councils: Devon County Council, North Devon Council and Barnstaple Town Council. Each one is responsible for something different. Devon County Council provide the big services for the whole of Devon such as Education, Transport, Roads and Care. North Devon Council provide services in North Devon such as housing, waste and recycling services and car parking. Barnstaple Town Council is what we call a grass roots council. It is the most local council and represents you and your views! It provides services such as allotments, community rooms and protects Barnstaple’s history. It only provides services for Barnstaple.
Each Council is made up from elected councillors who are voted for by the public, they must ensure they represent their residents views and ensure that public services are provided and delivered as effective, efficiently and fairly as they can be
Picture above is your local council, Barnstaple Town Council (Barnstaple Town Council:2017)
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A PUBLIC SERVICE? Public services are important to everyone and often people depend on them. They are there to support our welfare and our communities, and are often the link between Government and the tax payers that pay for them! Public services can be provided by the Government, local councils and not for profit organisations, often the local organisations are not just there to deliver their service but also shape what is delivered and how. What may work in one town may not work in another. They can then meet the need of their local community. Good examples are hospitals and schools, which every community needs access to, and car parks and museums, which not every community will want or need. HOW DO PUBLIC SERVICES WORK AND WHAT ARE THE ROLES WITHIN PUBLIC SERVICES? Central Government (in London) is responsible for most of the money used for public services. People pay taxes from what they earn, which get collected and a proportion goes into help pay for services. The Government allocate an amount of funding to local authorities, other public bodies and sometimes to not for profit organisations to provide the services on their behalf. By giving the money to local authorities, it enables them to make better decisions in how the services are delivered locally. Councils can also raise money from taxes paid by residents and businesses locally – these are called Council Tax and Business Rates. For each Council Tax payment made in Barnstaple: • 72 % is given to Devon County Council for education, roads, care for the elderly and disabled, child protection, public health, libraries, recycling centres and waste disposal • 10 % is kept by North Devon Council for refuse collection and kerbside recycling, housing, planning, street cleaning, leisure • 10 % is given to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall for law and order and crime reduction • 5 % is given to the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority for fire prevention, fire and rescue • 3 % is to Barnstaple Town Council for other local services not provided by other bodies Not for profit organisations, e.g. Citizens Advice, are often granted funding by Devon County Council, North Devon Council or even Barnstaple Town Council to deliver public services.
Picture above shows Parliament in action. (Google images:2015)
The Government – This is made up of just over 100 of the people in Parliament, and it decides what new laws and other decisions should be considered by Parliament. The political party with the most seats (or more than one party in a partnership, called a coalition) runs the Government until the next big election. From that political party they will choose a Prime Minister (Theresa May) to lead the Government and Ministers who are people who take control over a particular part of how the country is run, for example, education. The Government are responsible for allocating public spending and the amount of taxes people pay, and making laws. They are instrumental in deciding how public services are delivered and provided, but they do need Parliament to agree these decisions.
Not For Profit Organisations – These are bodies that aren’t part of national or local government, but provide services to meet needs that government doesn’t meet. In Barnstaple, examples are St John Ambulance, Age Concern, and the Foodbank. They rely on donations, fundraising and grants for their funding, and they’re usually run by people who aren’t elected but want to support the community.
All of these public service organisations have paid staff whose job it is to deliver public services.
The Public - You are important!
Tax payers fund Public Services so you must stand up and say what you believe in. Public services are important to everyone and only we can help make them better. It might be that you can share your views via your school council, attend a Town Council meeting (they are always open to the public), speak to your friends and families about what you think can be delivered better, or participate in debates on social media. If there is something you want to see in Barnstaple and you are 18, stand for election for your local council!
DON'T FORGET TO TAKE THE QUIZ IN THE PUBLIC SERVICES BOOKLET, THAT CAN BE DOWNLOADED AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE... GOOD LUCK!