Consultancy firms are predicting a significant hike in public-sector contracts the UK pushes ahead with its departure from the European Union, a survey by the profession’s representative body has found.
The Management Consultancies Association said in a survey of more than 500 members, 71% predicted growth in government and wider public sector work – including 21% who predicted work in the sector would “increase greatly” over the next 12 to 24 months.
According to the MCA’s January 2020 member survey, the predicted expansion in government and public sector work is second only to that envisaged in the digital and technology sector – where 86% of respondents predicted growth. More than half expected that growth to be strong.
By contrast, respondents expected work in manufacturing and the retail and leisure industries to decline.
The survey said the environment and sustainability were cross-cutting issues that were at the forefront of many consultants’ minds, with around one in four respondents predicting they would be “key focus areas” for the coming years.
Civil Service World has spotlighted increased spending on consultants tasked with helping departments with Brexit work in recent years.
But the MCA survey suggests the work has not been distributed widely across the consulting sector, while the end to uncertainty over whether Brexit would happen – and if so, when – is seen as a chance to focus on other policy issues.
According to the survey responses, the majority of consultants (54%) were not involved in Brexit-related work for their clients. Forty percent said they had done such work; 6% did not know.
The MCA said it was estimated that consulting activity as a whole had increased by 8% in the UK during 2019. The association quoted one anonymous company director citing Brexit, regional development, and government capacity among the factors driving the growth of their business in 2019.
However anonymised comments from consultants who witnessed a decline in work during the past 12 months all cited Brexit in one form or another. In one case, a respondent blamed EU exit for a “stagnation in central government projects” and suggested departments did not know what they should be planning for.
MCA chief executive Tamzen Isacsson said the survey had been conducted in the last few weeks of 2019 and had included the perspectives of professionals at firms from all specialisms and levels.
“Despite a year of political and economic uncertainty, the outlook for the sector is optimistic for 2020 and growth last year far outpaced the rate of growth of the rest of the UK economy,” she said.
She added that roughly two-thirds of respondents worked for larger and medium-sized firms, while the remaining third came from SMEs.