Councils told to step up no-deal Brexit plans amid warning of traffic chaos

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration promised Brexit on 31st October “whatever the circumstances”

COUNCILS have been ordered by the government to step up preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit in October.

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As part of their action, local authorities have been told to nominate a designated person in charge of getting ready as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration pledges to leave the EU “whatever the circumstances”.

New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council are all reviewing measures – although none of them answered the A&T’s request for how much preparing had cost the taxpayer so far.

HCC’s Brexit lead is assistant chief executive Deborah Harkin, with Cllr Andrew Joy as the cabinet member responsible.

The council has already highlighted the risk of traffic chaos spreading across the area after Brexit if queues of lorries caused by extra checks in Portsmouth back up to the M27, as reported in the A&T. The facility is the UK’s second busiest roll-on/roll-off port for UK/EU freight.

Spending has already included £160,000 on preparing the A31 near Winchester to stack HGVs off the motorways. If implemented beyond six weeks it would cost an additional £70,000 a week.

Hampshire County Council
Hampshire County Council’s HQ in Winchester

Deputy leader Cllr Rob Humby said issues included potential disruption to medical equipment supplies for the adult health and care department, border changes’ impact on the trading standards service, and awareness-raising among local groups such as small to medium businesses.

He said: “The county council is continuing to work through its local and regional networks to help inform central government of the risks associated with Brexit, and to try and influence development of post-Brexit policies, particularly in relation to EU replacement funding.

“We will continue to press government for funding to cover costs if we are required to install and manage a triage point and holding site for the Port of Portsmouth on the A31 for EU destined HGV freight vehicles.”

He added: “Like all councils across the country, Hampshire County Council continues to face significant financial challenges and rising service demands across the whole council.

“The longer Brexit dominates national politics, the more delay there is on domestic key policies which affect us all.”

Instead of naming a lead, New Forest District Council said its Brexit response was being spearheaded by the whole executive management team in partnership with other authorities.

New Forest District Council’s Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst

A spokesperson said: “We do not anticipate significant disruption to district council services but we are reviewing all our contingency plans.

“All our activity is based upon the central government guidance. We are endeavouring to make sure our local business are able to access all available information this includes guidance from Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.”

BCP Council’s Brexit preparation is being led by chief executive Graham Farrant, who was due to chair a meeting of the senior management team this week to discuss Brexit response.

A council spokesperson said its readiness priorities were for smooth management of traffic at the Port of Poole, import checks of food and live animals, and updating non-UK EU citizens on how to apply for the settlement scheme.

Communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick said £20m had been allocated to councils on top of £58m earmarked in January.

No-deal Brexit
Communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick MP

Brexit leaders will liaise with central government and connect with community teams who will work with stakeholders in their area to “plan intensively” for Brexit. The funding is for communications, training and the recruitment of staff, the government said.

Mr Jenrick said: “From Whitehall to town halls, everyone needs to be ready to fulfil our democratic mandate to leave the European Union by the end of October.

“Local government has a vital role in helping to make Brexit a success and it is absolutely right that together we intensify preparations in every community.

“I want all of us – central and local government – to be fully prepared for leaving the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances. I know that we can achieve this, by continuing to work side by side with renewed national focus and intensity.”

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