Press releases

UK public wants government to keep tackling climate change while addressing cost-of-living crisis

03 November 2022

  • New research from Deloitte and Reform finds UK adults wanting the government to prioritise cost-of-living, NHS waiting times and climate change;
  • Survey highlights that other than the cost of living and NHS waiting lists, the public has different priorities for government between nations and regions of the UK;
  • The public is divided on the right levels of tax and public spending. Few believe the current balance should remain the same, but there is no consensus on an alternative direction;
  • Survey finds the public pessimistic for the years ahead with almost three-quarters expecting the cost-of-living crisis to get worse;
  • Research based on responses from 5,813 UK adults aged 16-75 between 2nd and 20th September 2022.

Tackling climate change should be a top priority for the government after addressing the cost-of-living crisis and NHS waiting lists, according to new survey of nearly 6,000 adults.

The findings come from The State of the State 2022-23, an annual report on attitudes to government and public services from Deloitte and Reform, the independent think tank. The research includes a survey by Ipsos UK of 5,813 UK adults aged 16-75 between 2nd and 20th September.

When asked which issues should be priorities for the UK over the next few years, most respondents said the focus should be on tackling the immediate crises of cost-of-living (81%) and NHS waiting lists (66%), above anything else.

The public’s next biggest priority is climate change, mentioned by 46% of respondents. Improving crime and policing (44%), social care for older and vulnerable people (44%) and the availability of affordable housing (40%) came close behind as key priorities for the UK public.

Jayson Hadley, head of government and public services at Deloitte, commented: “Our findings suggest that the UK public sees climate change as a crisis that requires the government’s attention.

“Clearly, there are immediate domestic challenges that the government must address, including the cost-of-living crisis and NHS waiting lists, but the public also wants policy and decision makers not to lose sight of embedding sustainability into the core of everything they do. When it comes to tackling climate change, the public mood is clearly for action behind the two immediate challenges of the cost of living and NHS waiting lists.”

When asked about the balance of tax, borrowing and public spending, just 17% of the public wanted the current levels to remain the same. A third (33%) believe that Britain should aim for lower taxes and/or borrowing, even if that means lower public spending, while 29% believe Britain should tax and/or borrow more to increase spending. Younger people aged 16-34 years old are more likely to favour tax cuts and/or lower borrowing (43%) than higher spending (22%), compared to over 55–75-year-olds who are more likely to favour higher spending (36%) than lower taxes and/or borrowing (26%).

When asked about their expectations over the next few years, nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) expect the cost-of-living crisis will get worse, while 58% think NHS waiting lists will worsen. However, more people believe that the UK’s protection against COVID-19 is improving than not (27% vs 17%), indicating a public mood that the UK is over the worst of the pandemic.

Charlotte Pickles, Reform Director, said: “During a period when the economy is in crisis and public services are buckling, the public are losing trust in government and public services to do the right thing. At the same time, few think that Britain has the right balance between public spending, tax and borrowing – with slightly more people favouring lower taxes and borrowing than higher levels. With a new PM in place, it is vital that the government acts to rebuild trust and deliver against the public’s priorities.”

Priorities differ across the UK’s nations and regions

The research also found some significant differences in priorities between the UK’s nations and regions. For example, respondents in England were more concerned about crime and policing (46%) than those in Scotland (36%), Wales (39%) and Northern Ireland (40%).

In Wales, the Welsh public wants their government to prioritise tackling the cost-of-living crisis (85%), NHS waiting lists (73%) and climate change (48%). Compared to England, respondents in Wales are less likely to say that crime is a priority, with 39% citing it compared to 46% in England.

In Scotland, the Scottish public wants their government to prioritise tackling the cost-of-living crisis (84%), NHS waiting lists (67%) and climate change (47%). Respondents in Scotland are less likely to say that tackling crime is a priority than in England, with just 36% citing it compared 46% in England.

In Northern Ireland, respondents ranked social care improvements as the third most important government priority (46%), after tackling the cost-of-living crisis (83%) and NHS waiting lists (76%). Addressing climate change (40%) is the sixth most important priority, behind affordable housing (45%) and care provision for mental health (45%).


Notes to editors

About the research

Deloitte’s annual State of the State report examines public attitudes towards government and public services.


Ipsos UK surveyed 5,813 UK online adults aged 16-75 between 2nd and 20th September 2022. This included respondents in England (3,810), Scotland (899), Wales (659) and Northern Ireland (445). Topic areas included: attitudes to taxation and spending, trust in government, public services and businesses, reducing regional inequality, social care and Britain’s future in the world. The results have been weighted to reflect the known profile of the adult population in the UK.

About Reform

Reform is an independent, non-party, charitable think tank whose mission is to set out ideas that will improve public services for all and deliver value for money.

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 NSE 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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