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Cost of Living, Health and Housing Are Top Priorities for People in Wales


The Welsh public want government to prioritise addressing the cost-of-living crisis, reducing NHS waiting lists and improving affordable housing provision above other challenges in the coming years, according to a new report published by Deloitte.

The State of the State 2024 is an annual report on attitudes to government and public services, published by Deloitte and the independent think tank Reform.

The research includes a survey by Ipsos UK of 5,815 UK adults aged 16-75, including 713 from Wales, as well as in depth interviews with leaders from across the public sector.

For the second year running, the cost of living crisis was the Welsh public’s top concern, mentioned by 77% of people surveyed, followed by NHS waiting lists, which were mentioned by 75%. These two areas of concern were the top priorities for members of the public in all UK regions.

The Welsh public’s next priorities for improvement were jobs and the economy (48%), social care for children, the elderly and vulnerable adults (46%) and the provision of affordable housing, which saw the number of people highlighting it as a key concern rise by 11 percentage points to 47% from the previous State of the State survey. Concerns about crime (40%) and the country’s infrastructure (36%) both increased by six percentage points.

The research also found that people in Wales are pessimistic about some of the issues they most want to see improved, with 61% of those surveyed expecting NHS waiting lists to get worse in future and 54% expecting the availability of affordable housing to worsen. However, the number of people expecting the cost-of-living crisis to get worse decreased to 55% from 79% in the previous survey.

Timely access to services top of public’s wish list

Asked how they would like to see public services improved, the top priority cited by 50% of people was being able to access decent quality services when they need them, while 42% wanted complaints to be dealt with effectively when things go wrong. The third response, highlighted by 41% of people, was to be able to access the same services wherever they live in the country, while 35% of those surveyed wanted better contact and communication.

Deloitte’s interviews with public sector leaders revealed that the successive crises of recent years have left their services ‘fragile’, their workforces ‘tired’ and their decision-making ‘reactive’. Those leaders told Deloitte that the public sector’s aspirations are too often beyond the reality of its resources, and reform is needed that will allow the sector to prioritise, work towards a collective vision and improve its ability to deliver.

While the survey found the Welsh public expect government spending to stay at current levels or go up (56%), Welsh public sector leaders indicated they expect spending cuts on the near horizon due to the challenging state of Welsh public finances.

The survey also found that trust in the Welsh government was down on the previous survey carried out in late 2022, but it still remains more trusted than the UK and Northern Ireland governments.

Liz Jones, Senior Partner for Wales at Deloitte, said:

“Recent years have seen government and public services face successive disruptions, not least from COVID and the cost-of-living crisis. This year’s State of the State survey shows those years have taken a toll on the Welsh public’s optimism for the future and expectations for public services.

“Our interviews with public sector leaders also painted a challenging picture of the state of public services in Wales, and a difficult outlook that will require tough choices. But against that backdrop, we heard real optimism for the future of Wales. Leaders across government and public services told us that Wales has huge strengths to leverage.

“The challenge for any Welsh government is to come out of crisis mode, think more strategically and find a way to unlock the power of a small nation which has the capacity to be agile and innovative in how it delivers public services. There is undoubtedly an opportunity to use the power of devolution to deliver significant change.”

Ian Howse, Senior Partner for Wales at Deloitte added:

“While our discussions with public sector leaders explored serious challenges for the Welsh public sector, interviewees were undoubtedly ambitious for the future. They argued that Wales needs to think longer-term, collaborate better within the public sector and better connect government and business to thrive in the years ahead.

“Consideration needs to be given to how public policy helps create economic growth by making Wales a location that businesses want to invest in. That means investing in the skills coming out of our universities and colleges, but also in good housing provision, robust infrastructure, well maintained parks, and a safe environment that appeals to investors.

“The Welsh government has put in place globally recognised policies on issues such as the rights of older people and children, wellbeing and climate. If that same innovative thinking is applied to economic development and understanding business, it could be a game changing development for Wales.”

Business News Wales