Saturday, May 14, 2022

Cuts in public services are illogical as there is now more to do because of Brexit, says the expert

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The Institute of Government says there is more work for the public sector after the UK leaves the EU

Boris Johnson has instructed departments to look at how to bring the number of public sector workers back to 2016 levels and reduce the workforce by around 90,000.

Reducing public sector staff to pre-Brexit numbers is illogical as the UK government now bears more responsibility than it did when it was a member of the EU, an expert says.

Downing Street suggested staff numbers were inflated during Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic and argued these were no longer necessary.

But Sam Freedman, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, said changes in policy and governance required additional staff.

“It seems like they said, ‘What’s the lowest point it’s reached and let’s just go back to that level,’ without considering that they’re doing a lot more things than before,” he said I.

“There’s a lot of things we’re doing now because Europe isn’t doing it for us, so you can’t just say we can go back to pre-Brexit because our governance and responsibilities have changed.”

Mr Freedman gave the example of border control staff having increased responsibility for policing arrivals in the UK, or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs taking control of imports and exports.

Both were managed by the EU when the UK was a member.

Other aspects of governance have changed in recent years, he added, such as the increasing number of academy schools controlled by the central government rather than local authorities, requiring more staff at the Ministry of Education.

“There are all sorts of things changing that require us to have more officers,” Freedman said.

When No10 was told that Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic were still “living issues”, the spokesperson said: “We’ve come through the pandemic pretty well now and are in a completely different phase than we’ve been in the last few years.

“And similarly on Brexit there is obviously still work to be done in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol and a few other areas but we have Brexit done and a large number of the staff that have been brought in to work on Roles, who fulfilled them are no longer needed in the public service.”

Downing Street said it was “important for the public service to ensure that we work as efficiently as possible and that our work is not duplicated”.

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