Thursday 10 October 2019 7:21 pm

Exclusive: Outsourcers told Michael Gove no-deal Brexit planning is stalling industry

Whitehall has come under pressure from some of its most prominent public service providers for slow decision-making, as time and resources are increasingly directed towards no-deal Brexit planning.

Three sources with knowledge of the matter told City A.M. that de facto no-deal Brexit secretary Michael Gove has been urged to “get a move on” so more work can be handed out.

Read more: Whitehall must overhaul public sector outsourcing in wake of failures

At a meeting in late September, Gove asked for chief executives’ thoughts on the government’s preparations for leaving the EU.

Bosses said the diversion of time and resources towards Brexit – at the expense of the normal running of government – was a thorn in the industry’s side. This is in part because it has significantly slowed the pace of contract awards, City A.M. understands. 

One source told City A.M: “Nothing is functioning properly because procurement is stuck in the mud on one issue – Brexit.”

Several listed outsourcing firms have reported that tender opportunities have dried up in recent months, including Serco.

The meeting was attended by a number of firms including Serco and Sodexo, as well as Business Services Association chief Mark Fox.

Another concern raised at the meeting was how officials were implementing a recently-published cross-government guide for civil servants procuring public services, dubbed the Outsourcing Playbook.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the department was working with firms on Brexit, and held “regular meetings with a wide variety of business leaders to discuss any issues or concerns they have”.

Gove’s plans to shift at least 2,000 civil servants away from their day jobs onto no-deal Brexit planning were reported earlier this year.

It is part of the government’s massive contingency operation code-named Yellowhammer.

He also chaired a “no holds barred” discussion with car industry chiefs in Warwick late last month.

Read more: A year on from Carillion: 12 months that brought outsourcing to its knees

At that, bosses told him under no uncertain terms that the automotive industry was not prepared for a no-deal scenario.

According to the BBC, one said: “No deal is not an option. Catastrophic.”

Main image: Getty

Correction: 11 October. Business Services Association was changed from British Services Association.