Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to answer

By Paul O'Brien | 05 December 2018
  • Paul O'Brien

Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to answer and that definitely applies to Brexit. I was recently asked what I thought the impact of Brexit would be on local government frontline services and after a pause and a few caveats, I was able to give an answer which sounded something akin to the famous Donald Rumsfeld response about ‘known knowns and unknown unknowns.’

We already know the devaluation of the pound following the referendum has increased the cost of UK imports like construction materials for housing and highways, plant and equipment for fleet, refuse and grounds maintenance; food ingredients for school meals and even chemicals and cleaning supplies for janitorial responsibilities. In terms of the workforce, we know there has been a reduction in the numbers of European workers in services like homecare, with shortages rising to 400,000 by 2028 if freedom of movement goes, according to a recent IPPR report. We also know we badly need housing and the building industry is struggling to find skilled staff. What we don’t yet know is whether a final deal will exacerbate this further.

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