An annual review of government performance has identified how much Brexit is disrupting infrastructure delivery with 36% of major projects being assessed now either “in doubt” or “unachievable”.
A think tank that holds government to account has found that Whitehall’s role in delivering essential infrastructure projects has been undermined and severely hindered by the lack of clarity on what a post-Brexit UK looks like.
The Institute for Government (IfG) findings claim an “all-consuming” Brexit has distracted ministers from the delivery of public services and management of major projects with “no obvious improvement in the delivery confidence for 56 projects that have been in the portfolio since at least 2015”.
Alarmingly for the industry, the research shows that the percentage of infrastructure projects at risk has increased from 14% to 40% since 2016 with military and infrastructure projects accounting for all eight red-rated (most at risk) schemes in development.
The figures are found in the IfG’s sixth annual Whitehall Monitor report which 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 pre-occupation with the upcoming Brexit date is highlighted no better than with the reversing shrinking of the Civil Service - from a post-war low of 384,260 in June 2016 to 404,160 in September 2018.
Furthermore, The IfG pointed to fact that Brexit had led to a large number of ministerial resignations as a result of it with the majority of the 21 to leave between the election to the end of 2018 being attributed to Brexit. Civil Service turnover was also proving to be both expensive and disruptive with it costing up to £74 million each year.
However, the IfG does acknowledge how the civil service has taken steps to improve its ability to deliver major projects in recent years. According to the report, more than 500 senior civil servants have enrolled in the Major Projects Leadership Academy since 2012 and in 2016 a specialist project delivery stream was added to the civil service Fast Stream (which recruits and develops future civil service leaders).
Commenting, IfG programme director Gavin Freeguard said: “Two months before the UK’s scheduled departure from the European Union, British politics continues to be torn apart by Brexit. Government preparations for the UK’s exit have been impeded by political division. Despite the expansion of the Civil Service during 2018, many aspects of the day to day work of government – from managing major projects to delivering public services – have been hindered by the all-consuming political focus on Brexit.”