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Will Tuckley: How our Brexit commission aids Tower Hamlets

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London Borough aims to provide the most comprehensive understanding yet of the likely cross-sector impact of Brexit on a single place


  • Project: Tower Hamlets Brexit Commission
  • Objectives: To explore how Brexit will impact the local economy, civil society and the delivery of public services in Tower Hamlets
  • Timescale: September 2018 to January 2019
  • Cost to authority: Circa £58,000 (Including up to £50,000 for externally commissioned research and engagement focused on the local economic impact)
  • Number of staff working on project: 1 full time, 3 part time, 1 intern
  • Outcomes: To produce a comprehensive report identifying threats and opportunities to allow for contingency planning and to act as the basis for lobbying and influencing at a London-wide and national level
  • Officer contact details: Afazul Hoque, head of corporate strategy and policy

Brexit is the most significant political and economic event for a generation, affecting every individual, company and local authority.

Will Tuckley

Will Tuckley: How Tower Hamlets’ Brexit commission will aid our community

Will Tuckley

More than two years have passed since the referendum of June 2016, but time has brought little clarity to what will happen next. Instead the debate has been characterised by uncertainty, leaving our residents and businesses struggling to plan.

Tower Hamlets LBC is stepping in to fill that information gap with the launch of a Brexit Commission, examining the impact that our departure from the EU will have on our local economy, civil society and public services.

It is an ambitious effort aiming to go beyond the normal impact assessments by bringing together experts in the voluntary and public sectors as well as business and academia.

Mayor Biggs and Cllr Ali

Will Tuckley: How Tower Hamlets’ Brexit commission will aid our community

Mayor Biggs and Cllr Ali

We know from experience, including 2008’s banking crisis, that national economic shifts will be felt here. Tower Hamlets sits at the heart of London’s economy, home to Canary Wharf and the growing City Fringe. Businesses of all sizes operating in global markets with international supply chains have established here, and at £12bn a year, we are the UK’s third largest contributor of tax revenue.

But we’re by no means just a borough of big business. From Petticoat Lane and Roman Road’s market traders, to the restaurant owners along the iconic Brick Lane, the heart of our business community is made up of small outfits. Indeed almost 99% of the 16,800 firms based here employ fewer than 250 people.

We’re also home to the Royal London Hospital, one of the UK’s leading trauma centres, a hub of medical expertise and an employer of skilled staff from the across the world.

At a human level, more than one in seven residents of our borough, some 41,000 people, are from the remaining 27 EU states. They play a valued role in one of the country’s most diverse and inclusive communities, so it is right that the council steps in to provide them with some reassurance.

Tower Hamlets has benefited from significant funding through the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. The borough currently receives £2.6m towards initiatives to improve the local economy, development, infrastructure, employment and training.

Brexit Commission launch

Will Tuckley: How Tower Hamlets’ Brexit commission will aid our community

Brexit Commission launch

Our commission will consider how the absence of these funding streams will affect our approach to growth. It will look too at how statutory partners, local businesses, residents and community groups can work together to minimise any negative impact of Brexit, while taking advantage of potential opportunities.

The commissioners will be appointed from senior positions in fields like business, the voluntary sector, statutory bodies, health and education. They will be led by Amina Ali (Lab), the cabinet member with responsibility for Brexit.

The experienced panel will seek contributions from across the borough, including the public. Directorates across the council are working together to draw in stakeholders and key partner organisations to achieve the greatest possible representation.

Formal evidence will be taken from subject matter experts at a series of themed hearings set to take place in October and November. It is anticipated that they will follow a similar structure to parliamentary select committees.

The evidence-gathering process will inform the commission’s deliberations, leading to a formal report due for publication in January 2019.

Our aspiration is that it will provide the most comprehensive understanding yet of the likely cross-sector impact of Brexit on a single place. The report will form the basis for a lobbying and outreach effort aimed at supporting the work of the Greater London Assembly, Local Government Association, London Councils, the borough’s MPs and – we hope – the wider local government community.

Will Tuckley, chief executive, Tower Hamlets LBC

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