Finding the Sector’s Collective Voice

A disruptive event such as Brexit requires disruptive solutions and this is exactly what Grant Thornton UK LLP’s Local Government Advisory team set out to provide.

Their ‘newly appointed’ Brexit Risk Lead was a graduate trainee, who initially acted in a support role to the lead partners in this space before going on to effectively lead the firm’s offering.  Ivana’s passion and interest for the topic, and strong collaboration with Grant Thornton’s Insights and Analytics team, meant the firm was able to deliver meaningful insights for the sector and make a great contribution to ongoing discussions around Brexit and place.

As leading advisors to the public sector, the firm focused on provoking thinking around how we can ensure places continue to thrive post-Brexit. The approach required engaging with a wide range of public sector leaders and decision-makers across the country to get their views.   

In collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), Grant Thornton launched a series of interactive sessions exploring the impact of Brexit on public services, which have since reached more than 400 public sector leaders within 7 months. The team found that out of the first cohort of participants in the South East, 70% reported that their organisation did not have a Brexit plan. Highlighting the need to bring to the fore the complex interactions of Brexit and place.

The team presented the analysis at a number of regional CIPFA events, as well as national forums of Directors of Finance and Chief Executives. After attending one of the sessions, the Society of Municipal Treasurers President commented: “I have learnt more about Brexit in an hour than over the preceding 12 months, and I want to have this presentation given to my Cabinet.”

Each presentation was tailored to the relevant location – in the South East, they spoke at length about Brexit labour market impacts and, in particular, what place shapers will need to be able to create a sustainable adult social care labour market. In the North West, they teased out the interactions between Brexit and the Industrial Strategy.

And the results showed that there are some commonalities:

Figure 1 'What do you think the greatest impact of Brexit will be on your place?' 
Source: Grant Thornton 2017 Local Government Brexit Survey

….but also differing views around post-Brexit solutions….

Figure 2: What budgets/powers should be devolved post-Brexit to shape your place?
Source: Grant Thornton 2017 Local Government Brexit Survey

Figure 9 – What support should central government provide to the public sector?
Source: Grant Thornton 2017 Local Government Brexit Survey

The insight gained throughout the process has helped to strengthen the voice of local government in discussions around the post-Brexit role of place. Through their use of voting, Grant Thornton has, what they believe to be, the most extensive opinion poll on what public sector leaders view as the greatest risks and opportunities for the sector. They have since provided evidence to the CIPFA Brexit Advisory Commission, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the National Audit Office and the BBC, and have been asked to do the same for the Local Government Association

The team also repurposed the voting data and combined it with the firm’s unique Insights & Analytics platform to build a dynamic analytical tool that measures a place’s exposure. The firm’s Community Impact Index was also adapted to reflect Brexit shocks, allowing places to benchmark their communities’ vulnerability to Brexit.

The team’s work was also recognised by the firm’s CEO, Sacha Romanovitch, as a successful example of shared enterprise and purpose-led business – reflecting a key change in culture needed to provide innovative insight by sharing knowledge across grades and departments.

Empowering junior members of the team is seen as an opportunity to innovate, rather than a risk, at Grant Thornton. Ivana’s Brexit work was quickly embraced by both the Head of Local Government, Paul Dossett, and Head of Local Government Advisory, Guy Clifton, along with other directors in the public sector practice. They have also since been asked for advice from other teams on how to effectively empower junior members and implement shared enterprise into their team culture.