Brexit ‘uncertainties’ are distracting attention from ‘day-to-day’ government business, says the Institute for Government. The changed focus is ‘causing serious disruptions across government’ which affect public services and major projects.
The affect on the whole of Whitehall (author’s comments in brackets) with specific implications for the Department for Education (DfE):
· An upturn in civil service recruitment due to Brexit demands. These have reversed post-2010 reduction in the civil service which hit a post-war low (384,260) in June 2016.
· 21 ministerial resignations from the 2017 election to the end of 2018. This number of resignations is ‘unprecedented’. Many of these departures ‘can be attributed to Brexit’. More than 50% of the Cabinet and 50% of all ministers only took over their responsibilities in 2018.
· High level of civil service churn. This is ‘expensive, ‘disruptive’ and results in a loss of knowledge and expertise. (Michael Gove proposed slashing 1,000 DfE jobs during his tenure)
· Whitehall civil servants being redeployed to focus on Brexit. (Schools Week reports on how staff from the DfE and Ofsted have been ‘nabbed for Brexit planning’)
· A risk that major projects will not be delivered on time and on budget. The DfE has two major projects: School building – Private Finance rated green and apprenticeships reform rated amber. This rating means ‘successful delivery appears feasible, but there are significant issues and intervention is required to bring the project back on track.’
· More positively, civil service expertise has ‘seen developments’ during 2018. Digital public services have continued to grow and the service has worked at ‘impressive speed’ to recruit staff focussing on Brexit.
Kent county council has issued guidance for schools about making plans in case of a no-deal Brexit, Kent Independent Education Advice reports. These include contingency plans for disrupted transport for staff and pupils, breakdown in supply chains and postponing planned out-of-school visits.
UPDATE 11 February 2019: Kent NHS trust are planning for six months of disruption of the UK leaves EU with no deal. See here.