People in the North East see ‘skills and employability’ as the biggest factors to getting ahead in society  according to State of the State 2021-22, an annual report on attitudes to government and public services from Deloitte and Reform, the independent think tank.

The survey also finds that people in the North East are more likely to want government to prioritise spending that reduces regional inequality. People in the region think inequality between different regions could get worse over the next few years as the pandemic leaves the public feeling pessimistic.

When asked what they want the UK to be known for, the top answer was the quality of British goods and services sold to other countries, as mentioned by 28% of the region’s public. The North East was the only region to put this at the top of their wish list.

As a whole, people in the UK said they wanted to be known for scientific innovation and tackling climate change, with some 25 per cent of the overall UK public mentioning each of those characteristics. The next most popular answers in the North East were the education system (25%) which came second and tackling climate change and scientific innovation which came in third (20% each).

The survey also asked interviewees to name the characteristics they think the UK is best known for around the world. The most popular answer in the North East, mentioned by 38% of the region’s public, was British history, followed by the British Armed Forces (28%) and British arts and culture (25%).

State of the State 2021-22 features an Ipsos MORI online survey of 5,792 UK adults aged 16-75, as well as commentary built on interviews with 50 of the most senior figures in government and public services, and business leaders on their experience of working alongside public services.

Stephen Hall, office senior partner at Deloitte in the North East said: “It’s encouraging to see the public wanting the UK to be known globally for leading the climate change agenda. The Government is taking the country in that direction, but a true reputation for environmental leadership will take years of sustained action.

“One way the North East is tackling climate change is with Teesworks, the UK’s largest Freeport, a diverse, multi-sector setting, bringing together industries such as wind, green energy, hydrogen and life sciences. This site offers immediate connectivity to Teesport, the North Sea and Europe, unlocking global markets for Northern businesses.  Teesworks and the Teesside Freeport are helping pioneer low-carbon advances.  This alongside the Darlington Economic Campus, means this region is now at a moment of unparalleled opportunity.”

Charlotte Pickles, Reform Director, said: “If the public wants Britain to be known for leading the world on tackling climate change, the Government must not be afraid to utilise all the levers available to it to encourage greener behaviour – including tax and duties.”        

Deloitte’s research also examined attitudes towards the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda, including perceptions of factors that help people get ahead in society.

More than two-fifths of UK adults (43 per cent) believe that an individual’s skills and employability are some of the biggest factors in determining whether they are able to get ahead in society.

In addition, three in ten respondents (31 per cent) believe that parents’ social class or background makes a difference.  Wealth (28 per cent) and whether someone receives a private or state education (24 per cent) were also regarded as influences on someone’s success in life.

Regional location was only regarded as the fifth most significant factor, mentioned by 21 per cent of respondents.

In the North East, almost two-fifths of the region’s adults (38%) believe that an individual’s skill and employability is the single biggest factor in determining whether they are able to get ahead in society. Some 30% of respondents in the North East believe that the region people live in makes a difference, however across the UK just 21% said that region is an important factor.  One-third of respondents (29%) believe that parents’ social class or background is an important factor.

Stephen Hall added: “The research shows that levelling-up is as much about people as it is about place – if not more.

“It is clear that the government’s levelling-up ambitions should not just be focused on improving regional mobility, infrastructure and investment, but they should also be centred around narrowing skills gaps and improving overall employability.

“Deloitte, along with many regional bodies and businesses, is working closely with colleges and universities to improve access to learning for all. Upskilling the region’s workforce is essential for its future prosperity and we are excited to be part of several regional initiatives to address the skills shortage in the region.”

Charlotte Pickles, Reform director, says: “The government is right to want to spread opportunity, but as our polling shows, few people think geography is the key barrier.

“The government’s investment in skills and education has the potential to make a big difference, but this must be coupled with a commitment to ensure that success isn’t dependent on the family you’re born in to.”


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