Although the financial impact on Calderdale of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union is still not yet clear, a “no deal” Brexit approaching will definitely cost Calderdale Council.
It could be a cost by the end of this month in terms of additional resources with staff having to be diverted away from other council projects in event of a “no deal” outcome looking likely, but sensible planning was important, Calderdale Council’s Audit Committee members were told.
They were considering latest report on the impact of the UK’s leaving the EU, scheduled to be on March 29.
“There will be a cost to the council in terms of additional resources diverted from delivering existing core services and projects and impacts on delivery of these projects and services from late January if a no deal exit from the EU is the likely outcome at that point.
“It is clear that it is a responsibility of public bodies to make necessary plans, and a project team will be implemented requiring some displacement of staff from existing activities,” he said.
But a formal request would also be made to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for resources to support businesses and public bodies prepare for and manage the impact.
A final risk assessment will be compiled for the council’s Cabinet to consider on March 18 when the picture should be clearer.
Officers compiling reports – the first to Audit Committee was last October – produce them with consideration of the technical bulletins and guidance notes which the Government has issued.
The latest is also based on the draft withdrawal agreement – which MPs are set to vote on next week – and political declaration.
Local Government Association briefing notes, media and information published by other local authorities, and preparatory work being done by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, of which Calderdale is a member alongside Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Kirklees councils, is also taken into account.
Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) said the Government had given money to the National Health Service to help prepare for no deal and asked if councils had been offered any additional resources, officers responding the situation was not clear.
Leader of the council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town), said it would be challenging with councils working together and ensuring they were prepared.
Depending on what happened with Parliament’s “Meaningful Vote” when MPs discuss the withdrawal agreement, extending Article 50, which deals with it, by three months had been mooted. The uncertainty continued.
Officers’ current report says the impact of not leaving the EU on time would be likely to require EU elections to be held in May 2019.
Coun Baker said the problem for the council was that it looked like things were going down to the last minute at the end of March. It was an unenviable situation for officers but the council had to be prepared.
Committee chair Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) said the council had previously had to spend money “just in case” scenarios when things had not turned out to be the case.
He felt Europe would not allow trade difficulties to happen – “common sense will prevail,” he said. Projections were all negative impacts and he said the public perception was of threats being made but not coming about.
“It’s right that we do consider these things but we will cope whatever happens,” said Coun Baines.
Coun Swift said public expectation was mounting that it was a lot of scaremongering about nothing – but the reality was there were some very real issues there.
Impacts on the council the report considers include its capacity to meet other demands, impact of potential loss of EU funding – for example on the Caldene Bridge project at Mytholmroyd, impact on business and the economy, impact on workplaces and skills, impact on community cohesion and migration, procurement of supplies and services including health supplies and services, and impact on local democracy.
A detailed breakdown was also supplied to councillors with impact on each item assessed depending on the type of Brexit – soft, hard or “no deal” – in terms of probability of effect on the borough and level of impact in each case.