Britons give their verdict on life under austerity
Most people in Britain feel the quality of their public services has either been maintained or improved since the financial crisis five years and onset of austerity measures -- although the quality of elderly care, hospitals, police and road maintenance is now much lower, according to a new BBC/ICM poll.
The survey of 1,031 British citizens revealed that more people feel that bin collections, parks, libraries, schools and leisure centers have improved than those who think these services have deteriorated.
Recycling tops the list, with 48 percent believing the service has improved in the last five years since the onset of the financial crisis and the start of cuts in British public services. Only 12 percent believe recycling has worsened, thus giving recycling on overall score of plus 36 percent.
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Parks received a score of plus 19, leisure centers plus 18 and bus services plus 3.
Since the financial crisis broke in 2008, the then Labour government, followed by the current Conservative-led coalition, have introduced a series of swingeing austerity measures to bring the country's finances under control. Every aspect of state spending – apart from the U.K.'s National Health Service and the international aid budget – has been subject to harsh cuts.
The BBC/ICM poll is good news for the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has faced numerous criticisms regarding his austerity measures over the past three years, including regular anti-cuts protests.
Just yesterday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) dropped its opposition to Cameron's austerity measures by revising up its growth forecast for the U.K. economy from 1.4 percent to 1.9 percent in 2014. Cameron could seize on today's poll to back up what he said last week to the BBC: "We have demonstrated in government that you can make reductions but improve services."
(Read more: IMF drops criticism of Osborne austerity)
However, the poll is not an overwhelming endorsement of austerity measures, particularly regarding the National Health Service (NHS), care for the elderly and police services, areas where the government is constantly criticized.
Despite the government ring-fencing NHS budgets and introducing reforms, hospitals score minus three and care for the elderly minus 11.
Indeed, when specifically asking people who had actually used either the health service or care for the elderly, 32 percent said both had deteriorated.
At last week's Conservative Party Conference, around 50,000 people took part in a union protest against austerity cuts and NHS changes. Frances O'Grady, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) general secretary said, "Austerity is having a devastating effect on our communities and services, with 21,000 NHS jobs lost over the last three months alone."
Furthermore, while the U.K.'s crime rate has decreased in recent years, the survey revealed that while 15 percent said police services had improved, 28 percent said it had worsened.
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The police force in the U.K. anticipates a loss of nearly 32,000 jobs across England Wales by 2015. A report by the police inspectorate recently said that while most forces had coped with 20 percent cuts over the past five years, local patrolling was in danger of being "eroded."
In response to today's survey, Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association,told the BBC: "It is unsurprising that the cracks are starting to appear in public satisfaction around the state of our roads and elderly care.
"Unless local government finance is put on a sustainable footing, these figures will only head in one direction as the noticeable impact of cuts to services becomes a reality for all residents."
In response, Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said: "This survey shows that in many areas such as rubbish collections, schools and libraries, services and value for money are improving.
"But some councils are making lazy choices due to their failure to get a grip on cutting waste and inefficiency."