Mark Fox writes…

04 Jan 2021

“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.”

Winston Churchill’s words to the nation at the end of the 1945 war in Europe. For us Christmas has passed and the new year has begun. For those that were able to pause for a moment work now resumes. For many BSA members the work of delivering services and projects continued throughout the holiday period.

The Prime Minister made it his political purpose to deliver Brexit and an accompanying new agreement with the EU. This he has done. The passing of the agreement marks a beginning as well as an end. An end to Britain’s intimate relationship with the EU and the beginning of a close one. Over fifty UK/EU working groups have been established to support the new arrangements. The BSA is involved where appropriate and has already been contributing to these work streams.

The virus continues to rampage on its indiscriminate and devastating progress. New year school and university returns are suffering significant disruption, the economy continues to be pummelled, families and friends remain cruelly divided, and normal work and social activity remains a distant prospect. The approval of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine is truly bright and indisputably hopeful news. The successful and speedy roll out of all the approved vaccines is a pressing priority. We are in ongoing discussion with the government on how to ensure BSA members involved in delivering essential support services have access to vaccinations as swiftly as possible.

2021 is set to be an even more important political year than 2020 has been. Britain will host both the G7 and COP26 and the BSA is involved in contributing to briefing material.

Local and devolved government elections are expected to be held on 6 May. Across the country a huge swathe of local councils, thirteen directly elected mayors, 40 police and crime commissioners, the London Assembly and Mayoralty, Welsh and Scottish Parliaments will all be keenly fought. This is an unprecedented number of elections happening at one time and taken together will feel almost like a General Election. Just over a year into the Parliament these elections will be a huge test of public confidence in all the political parties and their leaders. In Scotland the very future of the United Kingdom itself, again, is in question.

The government has made ‘levelling up’ its key theme. If it is to be a meaningful theme the government will need to rebuild confidence around reformed institutions; to invest in educational as well as physical infrastructure; reform and enhance the City as a place to do business; deliver a credible economic plan to boost business, encourage investment and reduce the ballooning national debt; to create the conditions where science, research and tech innovation can flourish; and establish a foreign policy which renews Britain’s credibility and authority on the world stage. It will need to do all this while continuing to contain the virus and roll out the vaccines, which will take up much of the first half of the year ahead.

Together we must continue to manage ongoing disruption to normal life whilst planning for a new future. In this the BSA will continue to work closely with you across all the areas of interest and concern. The strength of the BSA rests on your willingness to participate in and contribute to our work. 2020 saw a record number of you doing this and we expect this to continue to grow in 2021. Online meetings as a norm are here to stay.

The BSA will continue to focus on key themes including follow up to EU Exit, COVID-19 and economic recovery, public procurement reform and social value, sustainability and Net Zero, levelling up, training and apprenticeships, and the Future of Work, as set out in more detail in the recent monthly BSA News.

The pace and breadth of our work has continued to expand in direct response to members request for insight and support. Please make sure you read our communications carefully and do not hesitate to make contact on any issue at any time.