DISSATISFACTION over service delivery in SA's largest metro areas is increasing, with Gauteng cities - Pretoria and parts of the East Rand in particular - along with East London and Bloemfontein registering the biggest rise, a survey by TNS Research released yesterday revealed.

The research found that unhappiness over service delivery had shown a notable increase in the months leading up to the elections, increasing from 51% in November last year to 58% in February. Respondents in the research gave low scores to their metros in all areas of service delivery, with the lack of an enabling environment for job creation being listed as the greatest delivery failure.

The study found that respondents held local, provincial and national government jointly accountable for failure s at a local level, and that they did not distinguish between the various tiers of government.

Most revealing for politicians campaigning in the lead-up to next week's elections is the finding that respondents emphasised different issues in different metros, suggesting that a "one fits all" campaign was unlikely to be successful.

Job creation was more important for those in coastal areas, as was combating crime. Crime was also listed as a concern on the East Rand.

On the East Rand, and in Cape Town and East London, housing was an issue, while education and training were of concern in Port Elizabeth. Gauteng metros - the Vaal Triangle, south Rand and Soweto in particular - and Bloemfontein took issue with poor road maintenance.

Getting billing and rates accounts right was mentioned by 20% of respondents, with the bulk coming from Johannesburg and the West Rand, followed by Port Elizabeth. Electricity was mentioned by only 16% of the people taking part, and provision of water by 10% of respondents.

Among the more highly educated respondents, crime reduction was the first concern, while poorer respondents rated job creation first, then crime and finally housing.

The study found the major issues overall for respondents, in order of importance, were job creation, with crime following closely behind, then housing, education and training, roads, billing, electricity and water.

Recreational facilities, refuse removal, street lighting and the need for public transport were listed below those.

Housing, where there is a 2,1- million backlog, was most likely to be the motivator for violent protest, TNS found.

"Housing is of greatest concern to poor people, with 36% of those living in informal dwellings putting this as their top need from their local authority, higher than any other need. This goes a long way to explaining the potential for violence when it comes to the need to improve living conditions," the study said.

Regarding a lack of recognition of which tiers carry out which functions, and the possible effect on local government results, the research found that "data suggests that while the three tiers of government have very specific roles, this may not be how citizens see it. This suggests that people see service delivery as the responsibility of the government as a whole, regardless of the tier that may actually be responsible for delivery.

"It is issues that affect how people live their daily lives that will affect how people vote in this election - whether that issue is a local, provincial or national responsibility," TNS said.

benjaminc@bdfm.co.za