Cambridgeshire taskforce to help with Brexit amid warnings police could be ‘dragged away’

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A special “taskforce” has been set up in Cambridgeshire to help with Brexit amid warnings police could be “dragged away” to help tackle problems in other parts of the UK.

Cambridgeshire County Council is making preparations for a no-deal Brexit as the date for the UK’s planned withdrawal from the EU approaches.

A Brexit impact assessment report, which looks at likely scenarios and possible mitigation work following March 29, was last week discussed by the council’s audit and accounts committee.

The report notes it is likely there will be an increase in “community tensions” after Brexit, and also warns of the possibility of fuel and medicine shortages. It also said it is “very likely” there will be problems recruiting staff for key roles like carers, cleaners and security staff.

The committee heard communication is central to the work the council is doing trying to let people know what they need to do to make sure their rights to work and live in the UK are ensured.

The county council’s new lead for Brexit preparedness, Adrian Chapman, said the council is making preparations ahead of March 29 when the UK is timetabled to leave the EU, and that they are “far ahead” of some work being done by other councils in the UK.

Mr Chapman said the council would be sticking to its plans and would be working with the assumption there would be a no deal Brexit to make sure even the most difficult scenarios are anticipated.

Mr Chapman said Brexit is now “very real, and is feeling very real”. He said the setting up of a taskforce to tackle issues suggested that work had not been done already. Instead, he said, the taskforce is actually building on top of “months and months of work” and is there to “mitigate” problems that arise.

Some, however, said there were very real concerns among the community for the potential impact a no deal Brexit might have.

Committee chairman Cllr Mike Shellens said: “It is not far away and, inevitably, in a very British way, we will end up making some of it up on the hoof. I think we need to plan for everything we can imagine.”

Cllr Shellens said he’s had meetings with police who have said officers could be “dragged away” from Cambridgeshire to help quell unrest in other parts of the UK or to help at ports if they are needed.

Cllr Susan van de Ven told the committee she was worried about schools, saying shortages of fuel or disruption to transport would affect people getting to and from school. She also said head teachers were wondering whether they needed to stockpile food in case there were problems delivering school dinners.

Cllr van de Ven warned that EU families leaving the UK would also have an effect on school funding formulas as some schools could end up with less funding if they have fewer pupils attending due to their families leaving the UK after Brexit.

Cambridgeshire County Council has a designated section on its website where all the latest information and advice surrounding Brexit and how it may impact on people will be available. Visit www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/brexit.

Josh Thomas, Local Democracy Reporting Service