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Public Sector Leaders

Views on public services and economy

Published:9 April 2013
Fieldwork:12 - 14 January 2013
Source:Social Research Institute

Issues of concern 

Funding and budget cuts are still the top concern for leaders across the public sector. Half of public sector leaders (51%) cite this as the most important issue facing their area and leaders in local government are particularly concerned (74%). This reflects the fact that just 16% of public sector leaders expect the economic situation of the UK to improve in the next twelve months. However, the Public Sector Leaders Economic Optimism Index (a net optimism score) of -20 is a seven point improvement since 2011 (-27).

Government priorities 

More than nine in ten public sector leaders (94%) say that they understand the Government’s objectives and priorities for their sector well, which is up from 84% in 2011. However, just a third (32%) of leaders in education say that they understand the Government’s priorities for the education sector very well, compared with 74% of those in central government and 53% overall.

Overall, around half (47%) of public sector leaders who say they understand the government’s objectives agree with the Government’s priorities for their sector (27% disagree). The level of agreement with priorities has increased by 10 percentage points since 2011, and this has increased to some extent across all sectors. Around two thirds (63%) of public sector leaders disagree that the Government’s policies will improve public services in the long term. This is unchanged since 2011 and is exactly the same as the proportion of the general public that disagreed in June 2012.

Budget cuts

Over eight in ten (84%) public sector leaders believe that their organisation has been affected a great deal or fair amount by cuts in public spending. Leaders in local government are feeling the impact of cuts most strongly, with three in five (62%) saying that their organisation has been affected a great deal by cuts in public spending compared to 42% of public sector leaders overall.

Half of public sector leaders (54%) think that their organisation provides a similar quality of service since the cuts, while one in five (22%) say the quality of their service has improved and the same proportion (22%) say it has got worse. Looking ahead, 85% are concerned about the effect that cuts will have on their organisation in the next 12 months. Leaders in central government are the least concerned about the effect of cuts on their organisation in the next 12 months (68% concerned).

In order to make savings nine in ten (92%) public sector leaders have developed new ways of working to deliver the same quality of services in a different way. Some of the most frequently named ways they have made savings are:

  • Worked in partnership with different organisations (such as other public services, charities or business) to reduce costs, (86%) 
  • Cut back on pay increases, (86%) 
  • Reduce spending on managerial functions, (85%) 
  • Reduce spending on back office functions (such as HR, finance, IT etc), (84%)


Technical details

The Ipsos MORI Public Sector Leaders survey is an omnibus survey of chief executives, directors and senior managers in the public sector. The Spring 2013 survey is based on a total of 200 respondents from four sectors (base sizes in brackets: central government (50), local government (50), health (50) and education (50). Fieldwork took place using computer-aided telephone interviewing (CATI) between 7th January and 2nd February 2013.

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Daniel Cameron
Daniel Cameron

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