Councils have the local support to do what they must

By Ben Page | 18 August 2020
  • Ben Page

When will life be normal again? The public are pretty pessimistic – only about a quarter agree with Boris Johnson that significant normality will be possible by the end of the year; most think it will take a year or more.

They have an excess of caution in many ways – Ipsos MORI swab testing for the virus has found only eight people per 10,000 had the virus in late June/early July and this number is falling, but concern about the virus is not. Whether there is an excess of caution depends on your attitude to risk, but compared to other European countries Britain has fewer people back at work – a majority in France and Italy for example, have returned to their workplace, but in Britain it is only 34%.

Some 86% support letting employees themselves choose where to work. If the Government tries to tell everyone to return to their offices, 47% say they would accept it, but some 39% would not: I suspect at least 20% of office-based staff will never return and will work remotely in future, with profound consequences for town and city centres.

What about schools? There is still a lot of concern about students going back to school, and about both their safety and that of their families; as a result 49% think home-schooling most children long-term would be acceptable, despite what experts fear the consequences would be. Most people say they’d accept parents being required to send their children to school when the Government says they have to (55%), but much will depend on how well it works in practice in September.

As local government works hard to revive local economic activity and resume normality, there is strong support for it to do whatever it takes. Our polling with Kings College finds 87% will accept local lockdowns being imposed long-term, and 85% say they will accept their own local area being subject to lockdown. With a large recession looming, and no signs of central government letting go, or providing anything like the resources local government says it needs – and anti-vaxxers and COVID-deniers vocal on social media – that is worth remembering.

Local government has the support of its communities to do what it must in the months ahead.

Ben Page is chief executive of Ipsos MORI


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