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People in the UK are supportive of ideas that would transform the country into one that is fairer and more sustainable, according to an inquiry into how the country should aim to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

After experiencing the pandemic and strict nationwide lockdown, the British public has expressed support for a shorter working week, more locally grown food, and better pay for nurses and carers, for example, among other ways that life in the UK could improve. 

The consultation on the public’s views was done by Reset, an initiative that was launched in June by a cross-party group of politicians who are campaigning for a “Green New Deal” — meaning a set of policies that target both the climate crisis and inequality at the same time.

It received 55,000 responses from across the country, and was bolstered by opinion polling, which uses a sample that is statistically representative of the country’s demographic, as well as workshops and interviews with over 100 people, and input from businesses and charities, the group explains.

“There is widespread public support for the government to take steps to completely reshape everyday life in Britain,” it said in a statement introducing the results of the inquiry, which were published on Wednesday.

Some of the most popular changes that the public expressed support for included more green spaces, liveable streets, less traffic, more flexible working patterns, and food grown closer to home. The group said such policies would “make a significant contribution to meeting the UK’s climate targets.”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for a Green New Deal is co-chaired by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and the Labour Party MP Clive Lewis. However representatives from six other parties including the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National Party are part of the group and campaign too.

The report noted that people had found respite in nature during the pandemic and wanted parks and spaces to receive further investment. 

“Half of people in Britain noticed less noise outside and 47% of people noticed that they could hear more birdsong,” the report says. “Many wanted these changes to last beyond lockdown.”

To achieve that, two-thirds backed switching to electric cars and measures to ease traffic.

Other answers reflected changing views of essential workers in the UK — such as the people stocking shelves and keeping food shops open. For example, more than 82% of survey respondents believe that delivery drivers and supermarket workers should have better working conditions.

Meanwhile, 90% of people said they believe that people working in the NHS and care workers should have better working conditions, indicating a greater appreciation of health workers during the crisis.

A lot of people were also keen to continue to foster the community spirit some experienced during lockdown, suggesting that a shorter working week would mean more people volunteering in their communities.

Almost 4 out of 5 people (79%) had engaged in some kind of community activity during lockdown, the research found, from checking in on a neighbour or participating in the weekly clap for carers, through to sewing scrubs for health care workers, the report found.

Lucas, writing in the Independent on Thursday, said the support for greener and fairer policies was shared by the people they interacted with, “irrespective of geography, gender, age, ethnicity, or social class.”

A member of the group holding the inquiry, the Conservative peer Lord John Randall, told the Guardian that people were “remarkably united” in wanting change.

“We found common aspirations in all of the communities with whom we engaged, marked by an overwhelming public appetite for a fairer, greener Britain after COVID,” Randall said. “We sensed a new mood, and it’s one that the government can, and should, listen to."


Defend the Planet

People Want Britain to Build Back Fairer and Greener After COVID-19, Inquiry Finds

By Helen Lock