A ‘volunteer army’ of 14.7m people is available to help councils run frontline services and protect them from budget cuts, according to research by the infrastructure support services specialist May Gurney.

The study is said to offer reassurance to the government that people are engaging with David Cameron’s, Big Society agenda.

The May Gurney study showed that 20 per cent of British adults would be willing to join a committee to help improve the standard of local authority services in their area. And 31 per cent said they would be willing to participate in running services either as part of a ‘people’s management team’ or as a volunteer. Another 10 per cent said they would be willing to help raise funds to improve local services but just 5 per cent said they would be willing to pay more council tax.

The most important services for residents were refuse and recycling (41 per cent rated these highest) followed by schools and adult education services (17 per cent), road maintenance and social services (the last two both 8 per cent).

Philip Fellowes-Prynne, chief executive officer at May Gurney, said: “Local authorities provide essential services to the communities in which they operate but these services have increasingly come under pressure from government spending cuts, with councils having to reduce spending by 27 per cent over the next four years.

“Finding new ways to safeguard and deliver front line services will therefore be critical and the Big Society policy paves the way for local communities to become more involved. It would appear that many residents are willing to do more to help deliver local services, although paying more council tax is clearly a step too far for the majority of people.”

He added: “In reality local authorities are also looking to work with third sector and private sector organisations to deliver traditional and enhanced services for less. We are witnessing a fundamental change in the way that public sector services are delivered in this country and our research suggests that local communities are more than keen to play their part.”