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Deloitte survey: As austerity ends, eight years of cuts have changed attitudes towards tax, spending and the scope of government

9 October 2018

  • Two-thirds of UK public believe government spending should be increased, even if it means tax rises
  • Support for ‘individual responsibility’ shrinks with concerns about future state provision
  • Survey reveals UK public backs fines for wasting public sector time

With a Budget due on 29 October and the Prime Minister announcing last week that austerity is over, a survey from Deloitte finds that nearly two-thirds of UK citizens back higher public spending.

The survey also reveals shrinking support for the idea that individuals should take more responsibility while government does less as well as clear support for fining people who waste public sector time by wrongly calling the emergency services or missing GP appointments.

The data was compiled by Ipsos MORI, who surveyed 1,463 adults across the UK, and features in The State of the State 2018-19, Deloitte’s annual report on the pressures on public finances and the challenges facing public services. The report is produced with the think tank Reform.

Strong support for higher spending
Overall, 62% of respondents across the UK believe that government spending should be increased, even if that means some increases to taxes. That is up significantly from 49% in 2009.

Just 19% of respondents agree that there is still a need to cut spending on public services to pay off national debt. This is down from 22% in 2017 and has fallen significantly since the austerity years began – 59% of respondents agreed with this in October 2010 and 48% in February 2011.

Just 9% of the public now think that taxes should be cut, even if that means some reductions in government services, down from 18% in 2009.

These attitudes differ across the UK, with 73% of respondents in Scotland supporting higher public spending, followed by 69% in Wales, 61% in Northern Ireland and 60% in England.

Opinion shifting on individual responsibility vs. government action
There has also been a shift in the public’s view of their own responsibility versus the responsibility of the state. 41% of respondents agree that the state has tried to do too much and people should take more responsibility for their own lives, down from 49% in 2017 and 64% in 2010. This view is shared by 41% of respondents in England, 49% in Scotland, 45% in Wales, and 34% in Northern Ireland.

70% of respondents say they are worried that government and public services will do too little to help people in the years ahead. This has risen from 50% in 2010.
Respondents in Scotland are most concerned about government support, with 85% worried that government and public services will do little to help people in the future, followed by respondents in Wales (70%), England (69%) and Northern Ireland (61%).

Public open to some charges for services
Public support for imposing charges for some public services is mixed.

54% say that charging for non-urgent call outs for emergency services are acceptable, while 45% believe that charging for out-of-hours school activities is acceptable and 44% would be comfortable with charging for extra bin collections.

Support is lower for charges for late school picks ups, just 28% believe this is acceptable, and only 29% believe charging for driving into a major town or city centre during the day is acceptable.

Looking specifically at charges in the NHS, 68% believe that charging for missed GP appointments is acceptable and 59% believe charging non-UK citizens for GP visits is acceptable. 25% believe that charging those with incomes of over £46,000 for GP visits is acceptable and just 9% support blanket charges for all GP visits.

Rebecca George, lead public sector partner at Deloitte, said:
“With a Budget coming up and the Prime Minister’s announcement that austerity is over, this survey demonstrates a marked shift in public attitudes to government spending.

“In a reversal of sentiment seen a decade ago, a majority of the public would now prefer tax rises to fund more extensive public services.

“The public also seems open to some charges for public services. Over half find that charging for non-urgent call outs for emergency services, for example, is acceptable.”   


Notes to editors

Ipsos Mori surveyed 1,463 UK citizens, via face-to-face interview between 18 and 31 August 2018. Results have been weighted to reflect the known profile of the adult population in the UK and trend data are from a number of different surveys. 

About Deloitte
In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NWE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

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