Wed, 02 Oct 2019
SCHOOLS closed, waste left uncollected, care homes shut down: this is what could happen in West Berkshire after Brexit, according to leaked council documents.
Shortages of food, medicine, and fuel are other risks, as well as increases in hate crime, criminal damage and theft.
This is according to slides from a confidential briefing given to councillors at West Berkshire Council, which have been obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The Members EU Exit Briefing slides list the ‘risks to the council and community’.
‘Fuel shortages due to panic buying’ could lead to staff unable to get to work, disruption to food and medicine supply chains, waste left uncollected, and schools closing.
Panic buying of food could lead to less choice and higher prices, which the slides say would disproportionately impact on vulnerable people and those on a low income. The council is ‘engaging with food banks’.
One slide is titled ‘law and order’, which warns of increasing hate crime, less tolerance and increased community tensions, and increases in criminal damage and theft. The council and Thames Valley Police have ‘protocols for these types of incidents’.
The briefing also warned of a ‘potential shortage of supply of some medication’, and increased ‘infection risks’ from shortages of key supplies. The council is ‘planning for pandemic preparedness’.
There is also a risk that care homes could shut down due to staffing concerns. This was echoed in the government’s Operation Yellowhammer document.
A ‘knock-on staffing issue’ could result from EU staff leaving the council, as well as contractors who support the council and schools.
On agriculture, the slides simply say ‘guidance is available’ for farmers facing export issues and for the impact on the horseracing community. However, the availability of veterinary medicines ‘is not now considered an issue’.
The presentation ends with saying the council has funding and coordination in place, it is ‘focusing on the higher risks’ and is ‘flexible to deal with the unknowns’.
According to the slides, West Berkshire Council is focusing on the six to 12 weeks after a no-deal Brexit, and £315,000 of funding has been put aside for mitigating these risks.
Martin Dunscombe, council spokesman, said: “Like all local authorities, we have been working for some time to plan and prepare for Brexit. The council is taking a coordinated approach to planning by making sure that we work closely across teams and with external suppliers.
“This ensures the continuity of services for businesses and residents. We are also in regular communication with other agencies in the region and nationally to ensure efficient planning and response processes are in place.
“Last week, we updated our elected councillors on our preparations for Brexit. This included discussion about different scenarios as detailed on the slides, many of which were ‘worst case’. Members were advised during the session of all the work being done to mitigate those risks.
“Importantly, it sought to reassure councillors that plans were advised and the risks being managed. As our communities would expect us to do, we will continue to prepare for known and emerging issues in line with our existing business continuity plans.”