CIPFA warns that people unaware of EU impact on public services


Too many voters think EU membership makes no difference to public services, despite clear evidence to the contrary, a report by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) warned today.

A poll, by ComRes for CIPFA, shows that a high proportion of people think that membership of the EU makes no difference to health and social care (46%), the quality of higher education (60%), consumer protection (44%) and regional economic development (40%).

However, a series of in-depth interviews with public sector chief executives, finance and service directors carried out by CIPFA, found far-reaching impacts of the EU were revealed. Rather than just analysing the economic influence the EU has on the public sector, interviewees described the positive impact of EU policy and regulation on public services and how cross-border collaboration between member states has acted as a catalyst for change.

CIPFA CEO, Rob Whiteman, said:

“Jobs, healthcare, defence and all the issues we care about rely on public services that are deeply interlinked with EU membership. This message has not got through strongly enough. 

“Our research shows an extremely complex picture. Overall, in the research amongst public service leaders, respondents considered the benefits of EU membership outweigh the drawbacks.

“What is abundantly clear, is that decoupling the British state from the EU will cause tremendous upheaval for public services for many years.”

Findings of the report included:

  • CIPFA identified varying regional attitudes as to whether membership of the EU places pressure on public services in the UK. In the south of England 81% believe it does, this is lower in Scotland at 64%.  
  • Despite a significant proportion believing membership of the EU places pressure on a national level, people are less likely to believe the EU does in their local area (78% vs 66%). 
  • Results indicate that those who say they are going to vote to remain are more likely to think the EU has a positive influence on public services than those who are going to vote to leave. Half of remain voters think EU membership is beneficial to the delivery of public services (50%), whereas only 13% of leave voters think the same.

Findings from the poll suggest that with security, the views of the public tally more with those of public sector experts that the EU makes a positive difference. The largest proportion(37%) believe the UK’s security would be better off if the UK remained in the EU, compared to 26% who say it would improve if the UK were to leave and 34% saying membership would make no difference.

The report also found that those leading the public sector with first-hand experience of the EU are more likely to be in favour of membership. CIPFA conducted in-depth interviews with 20 chief executives, service leaders and finance directors. 19 of them said they believe the benefits of EU membership brings to the public sector outweigh the drawbacks. 

A copy of the report Treuble and strife: an uneasy marriage- the EU’s influence on UK public services is available online.

Data tables are available upon request.

For media enquiries contact the CIPFA press office on T: 020 7543 5830/ 5787 / 5675 or E:

Notes to editors 

More about independent interviews

CIPFA commissioned Coyne Research to interview public service leaders. In these interviews CFOs, service directors and CEOs raised the following issues:

  • The balance sheet of the UK heavily relies on economic stability and downturns invariably affect the spending capacity of public services. Evidence suggests there would be a downturn after a Brexit. 
  • Public services, in particular health and social care, has benefited from accessing a wider pool of skills and talent due to the Free Movement Policy.
  • Immigration as a result of the Free Movement Policy has placed a fiscal strain on local government, particularly in areas in the south east, however not on social housing. It has also exposed the UK to risks ranging from illegal immigration to illicit trade.
  • With procurement, regulation has created a level-playing field between UK suppliers and the laws would most likely stay in place in the event of a Brexit.
  • Due to state aid rules, local authorities are restricted when awarding discretionary relief which could be used to incentivise local economies.
  • Cross-border research has had significant benefits to public health and higher education.
  • Collaboration and information sharing between member states has boosted the security sectors and enabled practitioners in health to learn from best practice in other countries.

More about opinion poll

CIPFA commissioned ComRes to interview 1,002 British adults by telephone between 18 and 20 March 2016.

ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available upon request and on