Dover DC is putting in place plans to provide “humanitarian aid” to lorry drivers in the event of a no-deal Brexit and is seeking additional funding from government to help it prepare.
The news comes as it emerged the Local Government Association has sought clarification from ministers on the criteria for dishing out the £3.14m of Brexit ports funding and the failure of some government agencies to communicate effectively with councils on their plans for Brexit.
Keith Morris (Con), leader of Dover DC, told LGC that Dover has different contingency plans in place depending on which Brexit deal is voted on in Parliament next week.
“It is unfortunate that we are only three weeks away and we still don’t know what will happen,” he said.
A no-deal Brexit will see the launch of ‘Operation Brock’ which will allow lorries travelling to Europe to be held on the coastbound carriageway of the M20 while a contraflow system minimises the impact on people travelling within Kent. If a deal is reached it is likely that ‘Operation Stack’, the current method for dealing with lorries queuing due to disruption to rail or ferry services, will be deployed which will close sections of the motorway.
“If there are plans for lorries running through our towns, then we will need to provide humanitarian aid,” Cllr Morris said.
“We will need to clean up the mess and look after the grass verges, and to provide temporary toilet facilities.
“We may need [vehicles] to come inland off the M20 and open up schools as support centres or village halls for [drivers] to have facilities.”
As Dover DC operates the Dover Port Health Authority, the council also has to consider all the environmental health checks which will need to be done.
Cllr Morris told LGC Dover DC should have received more money to cope with Brexit preparations.
“That’s why we are writing to the secretaries of state Chris Grayling and Michael Gove to point out the additional pressures that Dover is under and asking them for support,” he said. “We are looking at exactly how much extra is needed. This is about extra pressures that Brexit is putting on us.”
Last month, 19 councils that are home to major ports or airports received a share of the £3.14m made available by the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government to mitigate against potential disruptions once the UK has exited the EU. The money was divided into tranches of , £136,362.
Dover DC was one of four councils - Dover and Folkestone & Hythe DCs, North East Lincolnshire Council and Southampton City Council – to receive two tranches of cash, because they have more than one major point of entry.
A report from Local Government Association chief executive Mark Lloyd, to the LGA’s leadership board yesterday pointed out that not all councils with ports and airports received the extra Brexit funding.
“We have sought clarification from MHCLG on the selection criteria [for funding], with the indication being that MHCLG have retained some funding which they could release at a later date,” the report stated.
“We know that councils, ports and airports are working tirelessly with their partners to help prepare for Brexit scenarios.”
One council which did not get extra Brexit funding is Solihull MBC, which has Birmingham Airport on its patch.
Solihull’s leader, Bob Sleigh (Con), told LGC his council was preparing a comprehensive Brexit plan. “I know that there are issues around trading standards and regulation,” he added.
The LGA report also revealed that councils are reporting that engagement with some national transport agencies over Brexit preparations “needs to be improved” and that the LGA has been raising this with government colleagues.
“Government needs to be more joined up between departments and in its communications with councils; be seen to act upon the issues flagged by councils; and not fetter existing important arrangements like Local Resilience Forums,” the report stated.
Kevin Bentley (Con), chairman of the LGA’s Brexit Taskforce, said that there “remains resource, information and advice gaps that councils are facing while helping their communities prepare which are amplified under no-deal but would remain to some extent under ‘a deal’ with a transition period”.
“While it is important to stress that business and communities are being well supported by councils as the nation prepares to leave the EU, the LGA continues to identify the issues which need to be addressed at a national level to ensure more effective local work,” he added.
Cllr Morris said Dover had been in “very frank and robust discussions” with the Department for Transport and Highways England. “They have their aims, but we bring in the local dimension and we need to agree an overlap which is best for the district,” he said.
At Tendring DC, which received an additional £136,362 towards Brexit planning because it has the port of Harwich in its remit, plans for spending the funding were being worked up alongside the authority’s wider preparations for Brexit.
Daniel Land, lead member for EU Exit at Tendring District Council, said: “This is funding that we will use to address issues arising for the council from EU Exit, and that could include roads, or port-related activity. We are looking carefully through the details of any conditions and expectations from government about what type of things the funding should be spent on.
“While there is so much uncertainty around the type and nature of Brexit we will have, we are looking to be prudent and spend the money on things which will both help us prepare and benefit the area in the long-term, in the event of a withdrawal agreement and an uneventful EU Exit.
“We continue to plan for all reasonable eventualities, including a ‘no deal’ scenario, as is sensible to do so.”