Britain’s public services will not get better no matter which party is in power, most voters believe in a striking sign the public has lost faith with the political system.
Just one in five people trust political leaders to meet the challenges facing the country, according to reseach by polling company Savanta.
A new report from the non-partisan Effective Governance Forum argues that the national loss of faith in politics should prompt a total overhaul of how Whitehall works, with every department run by an experienced management specialist and an end to the movement of civil servants between them.
Recent polls continue to show a large lead for Labour after a decline in the popularity of the Conservatives following 13 years in government. But the Savanta research suggests there is little faith that a new administration would boost the quality of public services.
Only 33 per cent of voters said that the management of services such as schools and hospitals improved when certain parties were in power, with 58 per cent believing there is no difference in their quality based on who wins elections. And 63 per cent think taxpayers do not get good value from the services they fund while 30 per cent said public services do represent good value for money.
Asked whether they are confident that national political leaders can “meet the challenges facing the UK at the moment”, 21 per cent said yes and 47 per cent disagreed.
The Effective Governance Forum said the findings, based on a poll of 2,275 adults conducted in the last fortnight, showed that “the UK’s system of governance is broken, delivering poor but expensive public services, with some services like the NHS and pensions quickly becoming unsustainable”.
In a report, it called for Government departments to be restructured so that ministers become the equivalent of a company chairman, supported by a chief executive with significant private-sector or charity experience and a professional oversight board. The permanent secretary, currently the most senior official in each department, should be responsible for advising ministers but no longer have managerial responsibility.
The think-tank also said that departments should become legally independent entities, ending the system whereby civil servants move frequently between them rather than staying focussed on one specialism for the long term.
Tim Knox, co-author of the report, said: “This polling confirms what many of us have known for some time – that our current structure of government is broken.
“Our system of governance is crying out for reform, with voters and politicians alike believing the structures of Whitehall obstruct the efficient delivery of public services. Whichever party wins the next election, they will have to address the failings of government. Action is needed now.”
Patrick Barbour, the other author, added: “The current system of central government gives politicians and civil servants impossible jobs which results in poor implementation and management of policy. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1854 introduced professionalism into the civil service. The role of government has changed significantly over the past 170 years but the system of government has not.
“We believe there is an urgent need for all parties to come up with a plan before some public services collapse or become unaffordable.”