One of the few accepted truths to emerge from the recent general election campaign is the acknowledgement that public service performance has worsened since 2010, and services are not meeting public expectations or needs. Read on for an exploration of the main themes from Will McWilliams, Head of Public Services Advisory at Grant Thornton, or jump straight to an in-depth analysis of each from our subject matter experts.

Local government

Health and social care


Energy and Net Zero

Headshot for Will McWilliamsWill McWilliams
Head of Public Services Advisory

Across the country, the evidence of failure is clearly visible. Hospital buildings are crumbling under the weight of years of inadequate investment, with ageing infrastructure struggling to meet the demands of modern healthcare and constraining productivity. Our roads are in a poor state of repair and the school estate, once a priority for investment, is now deemed by the Department for Education (DfE) to present significant safety risks. Frontline services such as social care and the prison system are in a state of crisis, unable to keep pace with the soaring demand for their services. Local authorities are teetering on the brink of financial collapse, with many facing the stark reality of financial failure or being forced to deplete their reserves to cover day-to-day expenses.

Given this background, it was no surprise to hear the Prime Minister frame his first speech in Downing Street around the language of national renewal. Public services will sit at the heart of this national renewal. 

The outcome of last week's election, with a clear Labour majority, offers the stability public services have been craving: this stability and increased focus present significant opportunities to plan over a longer time frame with multi-year funding settlements being a key component.

Labour’s Devolution Strategy 

Labour’s manifesto aims to decentralise power and emphasises the "Take Back Control Act" to transfer authority from Westminster, enabling local authorities to manage housing, planning, transport, adult education, and energy. This act promises constitutional autonomy and new powers for mayors alongside statutory Local Growth Plans to stimulate regional economic development.

This strategy must focus on ending competitive bidding, providing multi-year funding, and enhancing local governance — resetting relations with devolved governments and involving them in structural decisions. Only by enhancing the devolution framework will the new government ensure local authorities have the necessary powers, funding, and accountability to address economic challenges effectively.  

While local leaders will welcome these plans, their success will depend on tailored approaches and strong collaboration between central and local governments to foster economic growth and efficiency. 

Providing a sustainable footing for local public services

The government needs to cement its plans to overhaul local government finance, focusing on three core levers: reforming government funding, granting fiscal freedom, and embracing digital delivery efficiencies. Key initiatives should include establishing a multi-year settlement framework, refreshing the Fair Funding review, and aligning with a centrally-led, locally-delivered programme focused on digital transformation, streamlining operations, reducing costs, and improving service delivery.  

Based on the Redmond proposals, audit reform should also seek to improve accountability and align with higher standards in local government. Ultimately, empowering local authorities with greater fiscal freedom will allow for more tailored financial strategies and enhanced revenue management. 

Read more: Devolution and local government: Empowering local authorities and addressing financial sustainability 

Transforming the National Health Service

There is a pivotal opportunity to transform the NHS and social care system. Addressing urgent winter pressures, tackling stark health inequalities, and strengthening a workforce facing significant challenges are immediate priorities. The government must also focus on revitalising neglected NHS estates, embracing digital transformation, and shifting to a prevention-led healthcare model. Enhancing mental health services and reforming social care are crucial for long-term sustainability. By strategically addressing these critical areas, the new government can build a resilient, efficient, and equitable healthcare system for the future. 

Read more: Health and social care key priorities for the first 100 days of the new Government

Driving economic growth through transport reforms

The new Government has a critical opportunity to drive economic growth through comprehensive transport reforms under the banner of "Getting Britain Moving". The Labour manifesto commits to a national transport strategy to create a responsive, accountable, and user-focused network. Immediate priorities include empowering local authorities to control bus services through franchising, accelerating rail reform to establish Great British Railways, and implementing major infrastructure projects.

Key challenges lie in delivering tangible improvements for passengers and road users in the short to medium term, necessitating swift, coordinated action and innovative solutions to attract private investment. By addressing these priorities, the government can ensure the transport network effectively supports the nation’s economic and social needs. 

Read more: Transport: Driving Growth and Connectivity



Transforming Britain into a clean energy superpower

The Labour Government aims to transform Britain into a clean energy superpower with its Green Prosperity Plan. Key goals include reducing energy bills, achieving energy independence, creating 650,000 jobs, improving home insulation, and enforcing stricter water cleanliness standards. The plan involves setting up Great British Energy to invest in domestic energy production and implementing tougher regulations to attract investment and lower costs.  

Labour commits to clean power by 2030 with investments in wind, solar, and nuclear energy, alongside the Warm Homes Plan to upgrade five million homes. Additionally, Labour will accelerate the rollout of EV charging points and reinstate the 2030 phase-out date for new internal combustion engine cars. These policies aim to secure energy independence, reduce costs, and lead the global clean energy transition. 

Read more: Energy and Net Zero: A comprehensive strategy for a sustainable future

A mandate for change

With its clear mandate, the new government now has the opportunity to improve the country’s public services sustainably. By focusing on stability, devolution, health and social care, transport, and clean energy, there is potential for transformative change that can address longstanding issues and build a stronger, more resilient, and equitable society.  

The public’s perception of the performance of key services will be critical in determining the political fortunes of this government and central to addressing inequalities in economic prospects and health across the UK.  

The electorate has issued a seminal call to action on public services, will the new government answer that call?