Many services were stretched before the COVID-19 pandemic, the coming years will offer little respite for the public finances

Many services were stretched before the COVID-19 pandemic, the coming years will offer little respite for the public finances
15 September 2021
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After a decade of squeezed budgets and rising demands, public services are grappling with three over-arching crises of global proportion.

Our latest ‘Picture of Public Services’ report sets out some important areas for public service delivery in Wales.

The report is split into three parts – what happened with public services between 2010 and 2020, how they have responded to COVID-19, and what we think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for public services in future. As well as facing the pandemic and economic uncertainty, public services in Wales must respond to the global crisis of climate change. 

The Welsh Government has already allocated £5.1 billion to the COVID-19 response in 2020-21 and has at least an additional £2.6 billion available in 2021-22. Public finances are uncertain but are likely to be tight for some time; and for services that were already stretched, the pandemic has created new challenges. For example, it has been estimated that the NHS will need between £152 million and £292 million each year for 4 years to address the waiting list backlog.

Despite this, our report emphasises that there is a chance to learn from aspects of the pandemic response to change the way services are provided for the better. It highlights five areas of public service transformation:

  • Systems and culture to support new approaches to service delivery.
  • Purposeful collaboration. 
  • Long-term financial and service planning that supports a rigorous and realistic approach to prevention. 
  • Harnessing digital technology to make services more accessible. 
  • Using data and information to learn and improve across the whole public service system. 

This report tells a story of public service pressure and delivery over the last decade and sets out some of the most important areas where I will be expecting to see progress in the coming years.

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on people and communities, yet it has also demonstrated great strengths in our public services. Now, more than ever, it is essential that public services squeeze the most value out of the available resources to improve the well-being of individuals and communities.

Adrian Crompton, Auditor General
Picture of Public Services 2021