Councils ‘must do more to prepare for Brexit’

26 Mar 19

Councils have “a lot more to do” to prepare public services for Brexit, a CIPFA conference has heard. 

Social services could be stretched if UK citizens living abroad return and local authorities must consider which regulations they will be working to, Dan Burke, partner at PriceWaterhouseCooper told CIPFA’s conference The day after Brexit: What it all means for your authority.

“Local public services are starting to get prepared, but there’s a lot more to do,” he told delegates today. 

Burke noted that there were roughly 800,000 UK nationals currently living abroad and said that if older nationals returned to areas with already high adult social care pressures could put extra “strain” on authorities. 

Burke added councils needed to work out what legislation they were adhering to in areas such as health and safety, and food and animal checks. 

“A number of functions are defined by EU standards and regulations,” he said. 

Burke also said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government must improve its preparedness for the UK leaving the EU. 

“MHCLG has only commissioned one piece of work – an impact assessment of the cost of UK nationals coming back to the UK after Brexit,” he said. 

Discussing the impact on industry, Peter Levell, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said there would variations throughout the country. 

Levell noted that some industries will be more exposed to loss of workforce with EU citizens leaving the UK, such as manufacturing. 

People with less formal education – educated to GCSE level only – were more likely to work in these sectors, Levell said. 

“There is a regional variation in people employed in highly exposed industries,” Levell said. 

Areas where industries were likely to suffer most as EU migrants left the UK included Northern Ireland and the West Midlands, according to IFS research. 

Bob Swarup, economist at Camdor Global, said: “Local authority balance sheets are fundamentally changing – that began with austerity but Brexit has accentuated it.” 

He said that increasing levels of commercialisation in local government is down to “councils being driven by necessity” due to underfunding. 

“There is a perverse agenda of devolution, where councils are being forced to become more independent, and this brings new challenges of governance and complexity,” he added. 

Swarup said for councils to maintain alternative revenue streams post-Brexit, they needed to “think independently and not be afraid to take action”. 

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