Senior Kirklees figures deep into preparations for 'No-Deal' Brexit

Councillor Graham Turner, who is leading Brexit planning on Kirklees Counci
Councillor Graham Turner, who is leading Brexit planning on Kirklees Counci

Kirklees Council is deep into preparations for a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit.

Senior figures from the authority will be speaking with Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, next week as the clock ticks down on the Prime Minister’s Halloween deadline.

The Government has allocated £20m to help councils prepare for a no deal scenario. Kirklees’ share of that money will be £104,984.

Officers and politicians have come together into a “tactical team”, which has been meeting for some time. The team will draw down cash from the Government’s pot as it is needed.

Referring to the government’s “worst outcome” Yellowhammer contingency plan Sean Westerby of the council’s emergency planning team said it had not been a surprise.

“That was the information that we have had all the time.

“But it’s a very fluid situation. We have tried to set ourselves up with a framework for the pulls and pushes that we might get through Brexit and different outcomes that might come of it.

“There’s a lot of work going on. It’s a bit like the duck on the pond. It looks very calm on top but I assure you the legs are going like mad underneath to make sure we are prepared and we are ready for any impacts that might come from Brexit.”

The council is to commission a report “as a matter of urgency” into the potential economic impacts of a no deal Brexit. Among other areas it would look at trade, investment and migration.

Members of the council’s Corporate Scrutiny Panel sought clarity on how a no-deal Brexit might affect the Kirklees community, from oncology services and care homes to looked-after children and food banks.

Mr Westerby said the council was getting assurances from the NHS that it was looking at all impacts and said the council was working on delivering key services.

“The council is there as a support mechanism. We are trying to anticipate what will happen.”

Councillor Graham Turner, the council’s political lead on Brexit, cautioned that the £20m released to Kirklees by the Government was, in fact, only £10m as the remainder was “old money” that had been previously committed.

He pledged that the authority was “doing all we can” to prepare and was liaising with the health service, the police and the voluntary sector in the run-up to October 31.

And by commissioning a briefing document around the potential impact of Brexit he hopes the council can pre-plan for what might happen.

“It’s the unknown,” he said.

“The more information we have the better we can plan – despite the fact that some of that will be educated guesses.

“One of my major concerns is that small and medium-sized businesses are likely to be affected more than a large company.

“If you’re a large company you will have access to strategic planners, lawyers and so forth.

“If you’re a SMB you’re unlikely to have that back-up facility and that will make your life doubly difficult.”

Coun Turner agreed that legal challenges in the courts meant the next six weeks were hard to plan for.

But he added: “We have to plough ahead. It would be remiss of us not to continue.

“We can’t stop just because of what might come out of the Supreme Court.

“We have 436,000 residents in Kirklees. We have to do the best for them.”