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The State of the State 2024

Views from the people who use it and the people who run it

The State of the State brings together an exclusive survey of the UK public alongside interviews with 100 government leaders. This blend of research provides a view of the public sector from the people who use it and the people who run it.

Since its launch in 2012, The State of the State has commentated on a decade of disruption for the UK’s governments and public services. This year’s report finds the public sector grappling with an accumulation of successive crises as well as the reduced spending power, increases in demand and labour challenges that came with them. It also takes a special look at sustainability and how governments around the world are feeling the first bumps on the road to net zero.

The State of the State 2024 concludes with ten lessons for the future of government from our interviews with officials, politicians and executives from across the public sector.

"It’s all about reform. When you look at how challenging things are in the world, we can’t stay as we are: over-programmed with not enough money."
Senior Civil Servant
The State of the State in Northern Ireland

The State of the State in Northern Ireland

Download Northern Ireland report
The State of the State in Scotland

The State of the State in Scotland

Download Scotland report

Sample of our key findings

Immigration, infrastructure and NHS waiting lists have grown as public concerns.

Our poll of public priorities has seen NHS waiting lists and the state of the country’s infrastructure rise by seven percentage points each over the last year. Concerns about immigration have gone up six percentage points, putting it level with climate change as a public priority.

The public are not confident the UK will meet its net zero deadline.

Seven in ten of the public are not confident that the UK will meet its 2050 net zero target.

Younger people aged 16-34 are significantly more likely than older age groups to believe the 2050 target will be met.

The public may be in for a government spending shock.

While many public sector leaders anticipate government spending restraint or cuts in the next Parliament, our survey found 59 per cent of the public think spending is set to stay at current levels or go up.

Younger people aged 16-34 are also more likely to favour lower taxes while older people are more likely to favour higher spending.

Lessons from the state from within

Interviews with 100 public sector leaders point to ten lessons for government from within. They include:

The public has a crucial role to play in delivering net zero and needs to understand the implications and expectations on households. To do that, government needs to establish a multi-decade, national communications plan to engage the public, encourage behaviour change and prepare them for the road to net zero.

Boosting productivity within the public sector should start with addressing ways of working inherent in the sector that drag it down. That means tackling habitual over-programming, short-term funding arrangements and input-orientated spending plans.

Many public sector leaders told us that the Procurement Act 2023 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has opened up new potential for procurement to boost value for taxpayer’s money, drive social value from government spending and improve partnership working with suppliers large and small.

Further education leaders told us that green skills need to reach a ‘tipping point’ of supply and demand. Government could accelerate that by scaling up its investment in the skills market, enabling combined and local authorities to bring together education providers, businesses and trades.

Perceptions about government’s ability to deliver appear to be pulling down public trust, and officials believe the sector’s accountability, scrutiny and risk environment make delivery an institutional weakness. Future government reforms should therefore emphasise delivery as central to government’s purpose.

The State of the State 2024

Download the full report

State of the State 2024 - UK event recording

Join us as we explore the ten key lessons for the future of government, derived from insightful interviews with officials, politicians, and executives from across the public sector.

Key contacts

Jayson Hadley

Government & Public Services UK, Lead Partner

Ed Roddis

Head of Government & Public Services Research

Emma Horrell

Government & Public Services Research Manager