The State of the State 2019-20

The view from citizens, leaders and the frontline of public services

Introduction

Now in its eighth year, The State of the State brings together Deloitte and Reform to make an annual assessment of government and public services in the UK. As Brexit negotiations and parliamentary wrangling continues, The State of the State looks beyond the headlines to explore the UK’s public sector from the view of citizens, public sector leaders and the frontline of public services.

The State of the State finds that the public want greater spending on services and perceptions of social inequality have grown. It finds that investment in skills could make a significant difference to some of the UK’s pervasive economic issues including productivity and regional disparity. And it finds frontline public sector professionals are too often hampered by out-of-date technology and working environments.

But amid these challenges, The State of the State finds much to be positive about. Our research shows that public sector leaders are enthused by the prospect of increased spending, public support is strong for government action on big issues like climate change and the thriving public sector ethos at the frontline remains one of the UK’s core strengths.

Understanding public attitudes has always been important to government and public services. It helps political leaders respond to the electorate’s priorities and helps public service managers deliver what matters most to their users – and that is more important than ever as decision and policy makers explore ways to maximise the value of public spending, encourage greater personal responsibility and shift public expectations on the public services. Find out more
Understanding public attitudes has always been important to government and public services. It helps political leaders respond to the electorate’s priorities and helps public service managers deliver what matters most to their users – and that is more important than ever as decision and policy makers explore ways to maximise the value of public spending, encourage greater personal responsibility and shift public expectations on the public services. Find out more
Public sector leaders are uniquely placed to comment on government and public services - the challenges, successes and future outlook. Our interviews with fifty senior figures in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales form the most extensive qualitative research of its kind and allow for an unparalleled view of the public sector from the people who know it best..Find out more
Public sector leaders are uniquely placed to comment on government and public services - the challenges, successes and future outlook. Our interviews with fifty senior figures in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales form the most extensive qualitative research of its kind and allow for an unparalleled view of the public sector from the people who know it best..Find out more
Frontline public sector professionals do some of the most vital and challenging jobs in our society. Whether working in the NHS, police, fire and rescue, transport, social care or in other public-facing roles, they support our day-to-day lives, often in the most challenging circumstances. Find out more

Key conclusions

Combining the three perspectives in our research offers real insight into issues at the heart of a new domestic agenda. Our key observations are:

The public and the public sector want to know what post-austerity looks like. Public service leaders are best placed to make their own devolved decisions, but many want direction from national governments on the shape of post-austerity, sector-wide reform. At the frontline, professionals want that reform to include greater use of mobile technology to reduce their administrative burden and boost their productivity.

Infrastructure and skills investment should be deployed to tackle economic inequalities. The public think that economic inequalities in the UK are getting worse and public sector leaders believe transport infrastructure investment could tackle them if deployed with purpose. Our research also suggests that a range of the UK’s economic and social challenges converge around skills – and so investment in skills provision could make a substanial difference to the UK’s post-Brexit future.

The UK has an opportunity to consolidate its environmental leadership. Public concerns on climate change have spiked in the past year, support for government intervention is strong and the UK has a window of opportunity to consolidate its environmental leadership when Glasgow plays host to the COP26 summit in 2020.

Resolving the social care crisis needs political will. As the Queen’s Speech recognised, underfunding in the social care system continues to blight lives and exacerbate demand on the NHS. Leaders across the public services want to see social care rise as a political priority and our survey finds it may be emerging as a priority for the public. Our research suggests that cross-party political leadership may be the best route to new funding arrangements – perhaps considering systems around the world as a starting point for UK options.

The UK could set the global gold standard in public administration. Brexit may be dominating a substantial part of Civil Service capacity, but it has enhanced government capability and stimulated cross-departmental working. Leaving the EU is an era-defining challenge for government departments but beyond Brexit, the UK will be in a strong position to set the global gold standard for public administration, exporting UK expertise, experience of successful transformation and digital know-how.

Key contacts

Rebecca George OBE

Vice chair and UK Public Sector leader

rgeorge@deloitte.co.uk View profile

Ed Roddis

Senior Manager

eroddis@deloitte.co.uk View profile

Jackie Henry

Northern Ireland Office Senior Partner

jahenry@deloitte.co.uk View profile

Angela Mitchell

Partner

amitchell@deloitte.co.uk View profile
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Methodology

This year’s State of the State explores government and public services from three viewpoints: the citizen, the public sector leader and the frontline professional. Each of these perspectives is informed by new research. Deloitte and Reform do not endorse any of the views they expressed but reports them here as our research.

Each of these perspectives is informed by new research. To understand the citizen view, we commissioned Ipsos MORI to survey 1,300 UK adults. For the view from public sector leaders, we interviewed fifty people in leadership positions including permanent secretaries, police chief constables, council chief executives, university vice-chancellors, NHS directors, and senior civil servants. And for the view from the frontline, we ran an online crowd conversation with 240 public-facing professionals including nurses, police officers and teachers. All three elements of this research featured participants in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to provide a UK-wide perspective.

Deloitte and Reform do not endorse any of the views they expressed but reports them here as our research.

Disclaimer

In this publication, references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte LLP, the UK affiliate of Deloitte NSE LLP, a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.