Almost two thirds of people think the pace of public services reform should be faster, while just 14% think reforms should be slowed or stopped, research has shown.
A survey by pollsters YouGov, conducted for the CBI, showed almost 60% of people believe private sector companies should be allowed to provide public services as long as they are of high quality, compared to 27% who do not.
More than half of people support the government’s decision to invite companies to provide GP services in areas where there is a shortage of family doctors, while a third oppose it.
Ahead of next week’s Labour conference, which will see trade union protests against the government’s public service reforms, the survey of more than 2,500 people shows that this is “out of touch with the public mood”, the CBI said.
Richard Lambert, CBI director-general, said: “This new poll proves that attempts to derail public service reform are not only misguided, they also misjudge the public mood. People want more reform, not less, to bring services up to the levels they rightly expect.
“The private and voluntary sectors will be central to delivering better, more efficient public services. And [this survey shows] the public is relaxed about private companies delivering public services, as long as they are good quality and remain free at point of use.”
He urged the government “not blink in the face of strike threats or conference ambushes”.
But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said it was “ludicrous” to accuse the millions of people who provide public services of trying to derail reform.
“Trade union members work hard to deliver public services day-in, day-out, but they also rely on them to educate and care for their families. The public and employees want outstanding public services but are equally concerned about how businesses intend to make money from our health and education,” he said.
The YouGov research also looked into how people would like to be involved in deciding how local services are delivered. The most popular device was regular customer satisfaction surveys, favoured by 52%, followed by 30% wanting to join local consultative panels and 22% wanting more public meetings.