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How satisfied are Europeans with their public services?

AP photo.
AP photo. Copyright Matt Dunham/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Matt Dunham/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved
By Rory Elliott Armstrong with Gallup
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The UK, Ireland, Germany and Luxembourg have all seen satisfaction with public services drop markedly over the last 12 years.

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Several western European countries have seen their citizens' satisfaction with public services falling since 2011, according to a survey by Gallup.

The UK suffered by far the largest fall on Gallup's Community Basics Index, from 79 to 67 out of a possible 100 points – followed by countries such as Ireland (76 to 70), Germany (79 to 73), and Luxembourg.

Yet other countries' numbers either held steady or increased slightly. France and the Netherlands stalled at 70 and 76 respectively, while Belgium increased from 69 to 71 and Austria from 78 to 79.

The survey tracks public perception of basic community needs such as quality healthcare, good and affordable housing, air and water quality, educational system, public transport and roads and highways.

Gallup survey of Community Basics Index in western Europe, 2011-2023.
Gallup survey of Community Basics Index in western Europe, 2011-2023.Gallup

Why did the UK rank so poorly?

In the UK, quality healthcare and good, affordable housing took the biggest hits, falling 26 and 18 percentage points, respectively, since 2011.

Over the same period globally, only Venezuela (-35 points) has seen a bigger absolute decline in satisfaction with healthcare. Lebanon (-26 points) and Tunisia (-27 points) have seen drops equivalent to the one in the UK.

Other countries in Western Europe, notably France (-17 points) and Germany (-9 points), have also seen declines in healthcare satisfaction in the last 12 years.

Air and water quality also decreased slightly, along with roads and highways. Educational system and public transport systems increased.

The housing market in Britain received the lowest rating among all the aspects surveyed in the Community Basics Index. In 2023, satisfaction with the accessibility of quality, affordable housing in the UK plummeted to an all-time low of 41%, a stark contrast to the 59% recorded in 2011.

Gallup survey of community basics in UK
Gallup survey of community basics in UKGallup

Can the Tories be blamed?

The drops coincide with the start of the Conservative party's 14-year rule in the country, which, along with formally entering a recession last year, could mean trouble for the Tories in upcoming local and general elections.

Upon their return to power in 2010 and in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, they initiated austerity measures, leading to reduced real-terms funding increases for the National Health Service (NHS). 

Despite all three major parties making comparable pledges regarding future NHS funding during the election, the actual funding increments have risen post-coalition years but still fall short of the widely recognised 3.3% real-terms annual increase necessary for upholding performance standards.

The British people are poised to participate in a general election by the end of January 2025, with the official call for the election still pending.

But before this, they will also cast their votes in local elections scheduled for next month, which are frequently centred on and influenced by the conditions of individuals' immediate communities.

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