5 ways the public sector can prepare for Brexit

  • Organisations across the public and voluntary sectors have spent months readying themselves for Brexit
  • With so much uncertainty, it is almost inevitable organisations will face challenges they have not anticipated
  • Zurich’s public sector experts discuss five key considerations when preparing for Britain’s exit from the EU

With the political landscape changing almost by the hour, nobody can be sure exactly how Brexit will play out and what the aftermath will look like.

However, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, organisations across the public and voluntary sectors need to be as ready as possible for what lies ahead.

Here, Zurich Municipal’s Heads of Public Services, Education, Housing, and Charities and Social Organisations, discuss five key elements of Brexit preparation.

  1. Dynamic risk assessment

From concerns about shortages of food, medicine and labour, to the potential for civil unrest, it is difficult for organisations to predict the full range of risks that could emerge in post-Brexit Britain.

Allison Whittington, Head of Housing, says: “Organisations need to open their minds to risks they may not have considered before. Their approach to risk assessment needs to be dynamic. With the situation changing so quickly, they can’t just write their risk assessment and file it away.”

Rod Penman, Head of Public Services, says evidencing the processes that guide decision-making will also be crucial. “Whatever happens with Brexit, local authorities will be involved in some capacity,” he says.

“We know they are well prepared for what is to come. However, no amount of planning will account for every possible post-Brexit scenario, and local authority decision-making is likely to be subjected to intense scrutiny.

“It is possible a local authority could find itself defending its actions and decision-making in a court of law, so it is crucial to keep clear and detailed records to evidence decision-making.”

  1. Supply chain assessment

If public and voluntary sector organisations are struggling to get to grips with Brexit, then it is likely their partners and suppliers will be too. Planning and assessing the potential supply chain impact, and communicating closely with suppliers, will be crucial in order to minimise supply chain risk.

Allison says that for housing associations, the supply chain impact could vary significantly from organisation to organisation.

  1. Financial scenario what-ifs

Any loss of income in a post-Brexit scenario could have a profound impact on sustainability and cashflow. Organisations should be modelling the potential financial impacts of Brexit on a week-by-week basis.

This will be particularly important for organisations that rely directly on EU funding, such as charities and universities.

While the UK government has guaranteed that organisations currently receiving funding through EU programmes will continue to do so until 2020, there is no certainty beyond this point.

Gordon explains: “Charities need to think about how they are going to remain viable after 2020. If they know they may need to scale back certain services, they should be having conversations now.

“Charities also need to talk to creditors to ensure their support in the event of financial difficulty.”

  1. Communication

During a period of uncertainty, communication strategies will become increasingly important for all public and voluntary sector organisations.

Rod says: “Local authorities and other municipal organisations need to think about how they will communicate key information to their staff, suppliers, and the public. It’s also important they have a crisis communications strategy in place in case things go wrong. Organisations may need to consider bringing in additional PR support.”

Gordon says: “Charities need to think carefully about how they will engage with their stakeholders – such as funders, communities, or beneficiaries – if Brexit puts them under pressure from a financial or resource perspective. For example, do they have a communications plan prepared, and ready to launch, should they suddenly find themselves in need of donations?”

It is also important that organisations think about how they will communicate with the most vulnerable members of their communities, including groups and individuals who will be directly affected by Brexit, such as EU nationals.

Tilden says: “We will have children and their families from across Europe, who have integrated in this country and who now face an uncertain future. Organisations need to understand the impact Brexit could have on them.”

Allison adds: “Housing associations need to think about how they will engage with residents, in order to share key messages and let them know what to expect at a time of uncertainty.”

  1. Escalation

No matter how well they have planned and prepared, organisations will almost certainly be faced with challenges they have not considered.

This could include specific challenges relating to Brexit Day itself: Will travel arrangements have to be altered? Could recruitment processes be put on hold pending an impact assessment?

Preparing for the unknown is perhaps the hardest challenge organisations face, so it is vital that they have clear mechanisms in place for escalating issues to those tasked with managing their Brexit programme.

To discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or for more information, please call us on 0800 232 1901 or email us at info@zurichmunicipal.com