Councils face ‘race against clock’ to prepare for Brexit

2 Aug 18

Councils face a race against the clock to prepare for Brexit, the chair of CIPFA’s Brexit Advisory Commission for Public Services has told PF.

Julia Goldsworthy warned communication between central and local government must improve to help councils prepare for when the UK leaves the EU next March. 

These channels of communication between central and local government have been “blocked”, leaving councillors with a lack of information, she said. 

Goldsworthy was speaking after Sky News released findings from freedom of information requests yesterday, which showed councils were drawing up their own plans in case of a ‘no deal Brexit’. 

Some of the nearly 30 councils that responded to the FOI exercise expressed mounting “incredulity and exasperation” at having to deliver local public services with little certainty of whether there will be a deal with Europe and what any deal is likely to be, Sky News reported. 

Goldsworthy also told PF: “As the clock counts down towards the exit date, this has got to be urgently addressed to allow councils to properly work through potential scenarios and how they respond to them.”

If the Commons and Lords ratify the Brexit deal in the autumn - MPs and Lords have been promised a vote on the final treaty in October - this would leave councils with too little time, the Brexit commission chair said. 

“Once you map that timetable [of the vote] against the budgeting process, which in a lot of places is already underway, then you know the window of time available is rapidly closing.”

Sky News’ research revealed Bristol council was planning for “social unrest or disillusionment during/ after negotiations as neither leave nor Remain voters feel their concerns are being met”.

East Sussex expressed a concern Brexit will impact its ability to provide social care after Brexit due to an exodus of EU nationals, who currently make up a large portion of the sector’s workers.

Some councils said impact assessments were impossible to do until the government decided on a position.

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat local government spokesperson, said in response to Sky News report: “When local authorities are voicing genuine concerns that Brexit could cause ‘social unrest’, Number Ten need to start taking note.

“The economic uncertainty surrounding the UK will disrupt the ability of councils to fund vital public services.”

In June, a CIPFA survey revealed that three-quarters of public service leaders felt the government had not engaged with them enough over Brexit. 

 

Government’s Brexit plan will cost UK citizens ‘£500 per person’

The government’s Brexit white paper proposals will result in an output loss of £500 per person annually, compared to a ‘soft Brexit’, a think-tank has warned.

If the government retains full access to the EU market for goods and services, the economy will grow at pace “consistent with its potential”, according to analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, released on Tuesday.

This translates to annual GDP growth of 1.4% this year and 1.7% next year, the research found. 

“The risks to our GDP growth forecast are wider than before and tilted to the downside,” the think-tank concluded.

But pursuing the proposals in the government’s Brexit white paper will cost the UK economy an output loss of £500 per person annually and a ‘no deal’ scenario would cost £800 per person, according to NIESR.

“These estimates do not include the likely impact on productivity which could, on some estimates, double the size of the losses,” NIESR said.

The white paper, which proposed a bespoke arrangement on trade with the EU, was described as “restrictive” by NIESR, and it added: “In our view the government will have to make significant concessions to the EU.”

The think-tank recommend the government maintain its current level of spending (as a share of GDP) and raised the quality of public services.

Lord Adonis has previously told PF that the government’s Brexit white paper was “dead in the water”.  

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