18:51 GMT +317 November 2019
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    UK Civil Service in 'Worrying' Overstretch Ahead of Brexit

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    A new report says that the British Government - the civil service - is trying to do too much, with too few people, ahead of crucial talks over Britain's new relationship with the European Union, from which it will withdraw, possibly as soon as 2019, Sputnik has been told.

    According to new report from the Institute for Government (IfG), Whitehall Monitor 2017, the UK Government is also becoming less transparent in areas such as freedom of information and spending.

    "The decisions taken in Whitehall — the center of British government — impact on people all over the country. Understanding the way it works is vital. Whitehall departments are continuing to function despite big reductions to staff and budgets. But it's difficult to know what their priorities are and how they're performing, which is worrying as it faces the challenge of Brexit," Gavin Freeguard, Head of Data & Transparency at the IfG told Sputnik.

    "The patchy performance on publishing some key transparency data and withholding more information in response to freedom of information requests raises questions about the future of openness under this Government."

    ​The report found that the Government is still nowhere near to reducing its workload by 30 percent, as the Chief Executive of the civil service advised. The major projects portfolio remains too big and half of departments have 50 or more listed priorities.

    Some of the departments facing the biggest challenge around Brexit experienced the deepest cuts. The Department of Environment Food & Rural Affairs, for example, estimates 80 percent of the department's work is framed by EU legislation but cut one in three staff since 2010. The Home Office — also affected by Brexit given its immigration responsibilities — had its day-to-day budget reduced by nearly a fifth.

    A journalist poses with a copy of the Brexit Article 50 bill, introduced by the government to seek parliamentary approval to start the process of leaving the European Union, in front of the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, January 26, 2017
    © REUTERS / Toby Melville
    A journalist poses with a copy of the Brexit Article 50 bill, introduced by the government to seek parliamentary approval to start the process of leaving the European Union, in front of the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, January 26, 2017

    Lack of Transparency

    The report argues the Government became less transparent over the last six years. Theresa May's Home Office was the third-worst department for replying to information requests on time. It withheld information in response to 40% of freedom of information requests in 2016, a big increase from 2010.

    "Last year I said departments needed to up their game on transparency. Whitehall has yet to rise to the challenge. Too often we find that departments have a lack of meaningful data. Not only does this make it difficult for the taxpayer to find out what is happening but departments themselves can't always measure the effectiveness of policies," Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee said.

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    Tags:
    post-Brexit, trade agreements, Brexit, transparency, EU membership, referendum, free trade, corruption, UK Institute for Government (IfG), European Commission, European Parliament, European Council, European Union, Theresa May, Europe, United Kingdom
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