About GUIDE

GUIDE delivers political and market intelligence for corporate clients. To find out more, email Chief Executive Greig Baker on greig@theguideconsultancy.com 


Brexit will be 'hard'

One of the big topics we work on is assessing what leaving the EU will actually look like.

In our view, it’s hard to see anything but a version of ‘hard Brexit’. The details vary greatly from sector to sector, but the consistent theme is the position of our prospective negotiating partners in Brussels.

It may sound simplistic, but if the European Union was the sort of organisation that will offer us a “soft Brexit” deal now, they probably would have given David Cameron enough to persuade voters to stay in.

There will be significant new opportunities for some businesses, but for others it will be painful. Brexiteers argue it’s better to make that adjustment quickly, rather than be a boiling frog caught by the EU’s rules.

More importantly, businesses that understand what the UK Government plans to do to boost different sectors and the wider economy after 2020, will have a competitive advantage in their investment decisions now.

The GUIDE to the week, 23rd September

Refreshing the parts other PMs can’t reach

Many of David Cameron’s former advisers expect a ‘manifesto refresh’ to be announced in Birmingham next week. This would make sense: some of those in the new administration see little downside to provoking parliamentary opponents, then potentially being ‘forced’ to go to the country for an explicit (and, presumably, sizeable) mandate of their own.

Steady as CCS goes

Malcolm Harrison has been confirmed in post as Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Chief Exec – a position he’s had on an interim basis since May. Making the temporary team permanent hints at a confirmed long-term agenda on public spending and contracts that has Ministerial backing in the Cabinet Office.

Every Corbyn has a silver lining

Labour might be glad to avoid Owen Smith’s demand for a second EU referendum. John Curtice (one of the few psephologists to come out of last year’s General Election with his reputation intact) reports that voters’ attitudes to Brexit haven’t changed since June. In fact, they may have hardened – not least in light of short term economic conditions being better than some predicted. Importantly, the wider public’s stance on Brexit will have a continuing effect on Government policy.

DCLG limits investors’ profit in land

The Government has published its letter confirming that land bought after 8th September near potential transport project sites will be valued for compulsory purchase as if the transport project wasn’t happening. This means investors hoping to gain from guessing which parcels of land will be compulsorily purchased for projects like HS2 stand to make significantly smaller returns – if any at all.

Cameron doesn’t keep the seat warm

The Prime Minister may be forgiven for wishing David Cameron had held on until the General Election before standing down. His safe seat of Witney could have provided a welcome harbour for one of the existing Tory MPs likely to lose their own seat in the upcoming boundary review.

The GUIDE to the week, 8th September

GTTW is back after the long summer break. Now we have a date for the Autumn Statement (23rd November), I hope our regular briefs give you useful insights into Westminster and Whitehall over the coming weeks. Here’s our note for today…

Independence day

The independent Bank of England is about to launch a new corporate bond purchase scheme. This is a version of quantitative easing and, while it sounds dry, has attracted media attention because some of the firms receiving the cash are being heavily scrutinised. More widely, this is just the latest new political power for the bank – with no corresponding increase in its political oversight. Clashes between Mark Carney and Jacob Rees-Mogg frequently enliven Today In Parliament but they’re not the same as Government control.

Brexit, mate?

HMG is recruiting trade negotiators from New Zealand and Australia because we don’t have enough experienced Brits to carry out Brexit talks. The new recruits could boost UK sectors that tally with big industries back home – or they could raise the prospect of mixed loyalties (it’s also worth noting more than 30% of Australia’s exports are sold to China). Either way we need them, so the Government has no choice but to manage the risk.

Cost-free-costs

The Cabinet Office has published “social value procurement” case studies, which will increase pressure on private sector suppliers to deliver public policy goals. The case studies “proved” that suppliers can provide “social value outcomes at almost no extra cost”. As this Government hasn’t got any more money than the last one, it means bidders for big public sector contracts will have to add ever more to their pitch to win Government business.

For tailored political and commercial intelligence, please email greig@theguideconsultancy.com If you want to subscribe to other updates from GUIDE, please use the 'subscribe' button in the top right corner.

 

Civil Servants only ask questions when they know the answer

We noticed the Cabinet Office published the results of a “social value trial” from Harrow Council this week. The trial found suppliers can deliver social value outcomes to the public sector “at almost no extra cost”, that they can be paid to deliver social goods, and that the system should now be used for all local contracts over £100k. The conclusion wasn’t surprising (it’s exactly what it was supposed to be) but it’s still a helpful reminder that the Government has no money left and that it will make private sector suppliers deliver social policy through procurement. No doubt these trials will be referenced a lot in the run up to the Autumn Statement.

Brexit negotiators must avoid conflicts of interest

Because there are too few British trade negotiators, the UK Government is recruiting expertise from friendly nations, including Australia and New Zealand. Many of these staff have previously conducted talks focused on the extraction and food industries  that are mainstays of Antipodean economies, so UK firms from these sectors might take heart that their issues will be understood. But the UK also has to avoid any perception of conflicts of interest. These could come about by UK-employed foreign negotiators having one eye on supporting their own native markets, or how Brexit is viewed by their home countries’ major trading partners. For example, China is the biggest foreign market for both New Zealand and Australia, with more than 30% of Australian exports going to the Chinese.

Government rebuffs PAC

The latest Treasury minutes confirm the Government will not accept two recommendations from the Public Accounts Committee regarding accountability for spending. The PAC asked for Departments to set out which individuals are accountable for specific spending decisions and, most ambitiously, to encourage Civil Servants to notify Parliament when they have concerns over taxpayers’ value for money. Unsurprisingly, the Government resisted both calls – so it still falls to firms like GUIDE to explain what’s happening behind the scenes to interested parties outside Whitehall. The full Treasury minutes are here: http://bit.ly/29SNLia

May's blueprint

Rightly, political types have revisited May’s 2013 speech on her vision for Government. Business leaders should note three points that have survived into the new administration: first, social policy by procurement is set to continue, with major suppliers to Government expected to help deliver frontline public services; second, there are planned changes to corporate governance legislation to make executives accountable not only to their shareholders, but also their workers; and third, the Government’s industrial strategy will focus on a small range of sectors and focus different policies (education, tax, procurement, regulation and investment) on supporting them.

Crown Commercial Service

CCS published its annual report this week. Strikingly, while new ideas around management systems and structures have progressed, some issues remain regarding lower level staff and supplier engagement. There are reasonable explanations for some failures, but the need to prove CCS can translate ambition to action and ensure something happens when the levers of power are pulled remains.


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