Brexit grant ‘inadequate’ say opposition councillors

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A £17,500 government grant to help Stratford District Council cope with issues relating to Brexit, has been branded ‘inadequate’ by the leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat Group.

All councils have received the payment, however little information has been provided about how exactly the money will be spent.

Confirming the payment, a spokesperson for Stratford District Council, said: “SDC has received £17,500 from central government, as have all district councils.

“It is to be used to ensure the council has taken all reasonable steps, in line with relevant guidance from the government and its agencies, to prepare for our exit from the EU.

Cllr Susan Juned, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat Group at Stratford District Council, said: “I do think this money is inadequate, while some councils have been hit with worse cuts then Stratford, this grant is a drop in the ocean really.

“I would like to see more of an explanation about how this money will be used, there will undoubtedly be more costs that we have not yet anticipated, for example there may be more enquiries from EU citizens who encounter problems and we may find more UK citizens coming back with health needs. These issues are likely to be exacerbated with a no-deal Brexit.

“I am concerned about the impact on public services as delivered by the NHS and County Council. There could also be serious impacts on local small businesses, farmers and the tourism and hospitality industry in our district.

“I am worried that the costs of food, fuel and other basic supplies will rise, that we may have food distribution problems, and that those on lowest incomes will have the hardest time dealing with the outcome of ‘No Deal’.

“Already we know that shortages have begun to develop in medicines and isotopes for therapy treatments. Our NHS and social care sectors have rising vacancies caused by people from continental Europe going back to their countries because of the insecurity they face.

“With just two months to go to the planned leaving date, we need to hear from the Conservatives running the district council – just what are their plans?”

Stratford’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, Dominic Skinner added: “The recent publication of the government’s own ‘Yellowhammer’ document on the threat of a no deal Brexit brings home the reality of the situation we are facing.

“I am shocked at the lack of action, focus and leadership on this matter from our MP and his Conservative colleagues. Does central government really believe that the £17,500 they have provided SDC will be enough to prepare this district? Local residents rightly want to know what they intend to do now and how they intend to spend this money.”

Responding to the comments, Cllr Tony Jefferson, Leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council said: “I note Cllr Juned’s comments. The money that we have been allocated, £17,500 is obviously insufficient to tackle all the issues Cllr Juned mentioned.

“We have identified David Buckland, Interim Chief Executive, as the Council’s Lead Officer and we have to ensure that we have a team in place equipped to support the delivery of Brexit on 31st October.

“I understand the concerns about the impact on local businesses and, in the case of ‘no deal’ I expect the impacts across the board to be significant.

“Obviously given the scale of the issues, they are better being tackled at regional level. The WMCA has established an Economic Contingency Group (ECG), of which I am a member, this Group is looking at the issues a ‘no deal’ Brexit will cause in the region and is making a case to central government for appropriate support.

“On the Economic Contingency Group are representatives from key businesses, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Local Government and economists. It is chaired by Andy Street, the WMCA mayor and meets regularly.

“I cannot divulge the details of proposed actions and costs, but I can say that the analysis has been thorough and the ‘ask’ of central government for support substantial.  However important the District Council is, we are not accountable for the services delivered by the NHS and County Council.”