Public services in 'dire state’

By Ellie Ames | 31 October 2023

No public services are performing better than before the pandemic and satisfaction with councils has dropped, a report has found.

The Institute for Government’s (IfG) annual public services stocktake found satisfaction with councils fell to 60% in 2023 and has declined by 11% since 2012.

But workforce pressures mean councils may struggle to improve performance and satisfaction levels, with the number of local authority staff dropping by 23.8% between 2012 and 2023.

The IfG found councils have experienced increased demand for libraries, including for use as warm spaces, and for homelessness support but have struggled to provide appropriate accommodation.

It said ‘limited progress’ had been made in reducing the backlog of road maintenance and planning applications and there had been little meaningful change in the proportion of waste recycled.

The report described a continuing reliance on a ‘crisis-cash-repeat’ model in adult social care, with spending still well above pre-pandemic levels.

In children's social care it found a sector grappling with record vacancy rates and the first decline in overall numbers of social workers in a decade.

IfG programme director and report author Nick Davies said: ‘Public services are in a dire state and will likely deteriorate further if whoever forms the next government sticks to current spending plans.

‘Improvements are possible but difficult decisions will be necessary to break out of the negative cycle of short-termism that has characterised government decision making, particularly in recent years.'

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Finance Planning Social Care Homelessness Waste management Libraries