The decision to leave the EU will have profound legal, technical and financial implications for public services. Whilst the government is yet to give clarity on its negotiating position, a consensus is emerging among public service practitioners that if a bad deal is struck, it will likely affect the effectiveness of services.
CIPFA has set up the Brexit Advisory Commission for Public Services to develop an authoritative, strong and convincing case for a Brexit deal that will protect and boost the financial sustainability of the sector for the benefit of the communities.
Chaired by former MP Julia Goldsworthy, the Commission will highlight the risks and opportunities of Brexit for the sector and will bring forward relevant policy recommendations on how Brexit can be a success for public services.
Improving public service outcomes for communities is crucial. Indeed, studies have shown that Brexit was in part due to disparities in the quality of public services. Statistics from the Fabian Society demonstrate that regions that were starved of public funds since the beginning of austerity were the very areas that were most likely to vote to leave. By comparison, areas where public spending per head has been higher were more likely to vote remain.
However, the task of making Brexit work for public services will likely be great, as EU protocol is deeply intertwined in UK public sector policy and practice. In a report released by CIPFA before the referendum, it concluded – as the EU has a far-reaching impact on public service management, delivery, demand, supply chain and funding – the process of separating the sector from EU policy and legislation would be significantly challenging. Furthermore, after a sustained period of low investment and a reduction in services, the report highlighted that there is little in the way of resources to manage considerable changes.
However, in interviews CIPFA conducted with public service leaders, it was also apparent that there will be opportunities to reshape EU legislation and policy to boost services for the benefit of communities. Indeed, many regulations are being closely scrutinised for the firsttime since their inception, and so there is great scope to look at policy afresh.
Clearly, Brexit will present both challenges and opportunities to the public sector and so it is vital that, given its economic and social significance, negotiators understand the impact of any deal on services. To support this, the Brexit Advisory Commission for Public Services will provide evidence-based analysis and impartial advice on how best to turn this unprecedented challenge into an opportunity to bolster the sector.