Public services through the eyes of citizens

Citizen views from across the UK

Understanding public attitudes has always been important to government and the public sector. It helps political leaders respond to the electorate’s priorities and helps public service managers deliver what matters most to their users. Both matter more than ever as decision makers and policy makers explore ways to maximise the value of public spending, encourage greater personal responsibility and shift public expectations on the public services.

For the third year, Deloitte and Reform have commissioned Ipsos MORI to survey almost 1,500 UK adults on their attitudes to public spending, government priorities and public service reform.

Public services through the eyes of citizens

The State of the State citizen survey finds the number of people who back tax rises to fund more extensive public services has risen from a low in 2009 to a majority view in 2018.Our survey also shows that the public are concerned the state will do less for them in the years ahead, perhaps as a further reaction against austerity.

Views on public services from our citizen survey:

The public doesn’t think the public sector does too much – and is concerned for future provision
Our interviews with public sector leaders show that many want to change the relationship between the citizen and the state, resetting the public’s expectations of the public services they should receive. Many see that as a significant way for the sector to cope with continued budget pressures. However, our survey shows the scale of that challenge. The number of people who think the state does too much, and people should take more personal responsibility for their own lives has fallen from 64 per cent in 2010 to 41 per cent this year.

These attitudes appear to differ across the UK, with people in Northern Ireland the least likely to say that government does too much.

Fewer people are prepared to receive less from the public services
In the context of austerity, the number of people who say that they are personally willing to accept less from the public services continues to fall. In 2010, nearly half of the public said that they would accept less from the public services in order to restore the public finances. This year, that support has plummeted to 15 per cent. Again, these findings suggest that the public is largely resistant to the idea of a public sector that delivers less, as shown in figure 18. These attitudes are broadly consistent across the UK, except with people in Northern Ireland more open to receiving less from the public services.

People are increasingly concerned that the government will do less for them
Looking ahead, the public are increasingly concerned that government and the public services will not do enough to help people in the future. Our survey found that some 70 per cent believe the public sector will provide too little support in the years ahead, compared to half in 2010.

Views on this issue appear to differ across the UK. People in Scotland are more likely to be concerned about what the public services will do for them in the future, and people in Northern Ireland less concerned, compared to the UK average.

Citizens are less likely to feel public bodies listen to them, involve them and offer them a personalised service
Our survey explored citizen attitudes towards public service delivery, and found their views less positive than in recent years - perhaps driven by perceptions of austerity. Fewer than one in ten feel that the public services offer a personalised service, listen to them or involve them in decisions.

The largest appetite for charging for public services is with penalty fines
Charging for certain elements of provision in the public services is not new – many people already pay for dentistry, eye care and prescriptions. However, it remains a contentious subject.

This year’s survey explored public attitudes towards forms of charging. We asked people how acceptable they would find charges under a range of circumstances and found that their largest appetite was for fining people who wasted public sector time. Figure 23 shows that 54 per cent would find it acceptable to charge people a fee for calling the emergency services in a non-emergency situation, 45 per cent find charges for after-school clubs acceptable and 44 per cent would be open to charges for extra bin collections.

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