Editorial

IfG: Brexit is seriously gumming up HMG

Brexit is causing ‘serious disruptions across government’ and has distracted from the day-to-day business of government – including the delivery of public services and management of major projects, claims the think tank

Posted 23 January 2019 by

The “uncertainties of Brexit” are causing serious disruptions across government and are distracting the machinery of state from the day-to-day business of government – including the delivery of public services and management of major projects.

These disruptions include, says the Institute for Government (IfG), churn inside Whitehall, with high levels of civil service turnover which is “proving both expensive – costing up to £74 million each year – and disruptive”, as knowledge and expertise is lost.

In the last year some departments – including the Treasury – lost one in five of their civil servants, either to other departments or to roles outside the civil service, partly due to Brexit, says the think tank, while a third of Treasury staff are now working on Brexit.

That focus means some other areas are being downplayed, it’s being claimed: “The risk of major projects – of which there are currently 133 – not being delivered on time and on budget is growing. Less than a fifth of major projects are currently rated green (successful delivery is likely) or amber/green rating (successful delivery is probable), compared to almost half in 2013. HS2, meanwhile, is now rated amber/red (“major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas”).”

The claims come from the IfG’s sixth annual Whitehall Monitor report, which it claims “collects and analyses data to enable those running government to be more effective and to help Parliament and the public hold them to account”.

The study does find some positives about the impact of Brexit, it needs to be stressed (though you may not find them to be such).

For example, the demands of Brexit have reversed the recent shrinking of the civil service, from a post-war low of 384,260 in June 2016 to 404,160 in September 2018. This recruitment drive has reversed one in five of the job cuts between 2010 and the referendum.

And he last year has seen developments in the professional expertise of the civil service and the continued growth of digital public services, as well as impressive speed in hiring more people to work on Brexit, IfG believes.

Read the full Monitor here.