There are warnings about the potential impact Brexit could have on Cambridgeshire, with possible fuel and medicine shortages, as well as the likelihood of a lack of care workers, cleaners and other key staff.
The UK is set to leave the European Union on March 29, and the terms of that exit are still largely unknown.
Cambridgeshire County Council has now published its Brexit impact assessment, laying out some of the potential implications for the council, its staff and residents.
The assessment has been informed by research, technical notes produced by government, workshop sessions with officers and meetings with services, senior leaders, members and other partners.
As well as this, a “cross-departmental taskforce” has been set up to make sure the region is ready to respond to any issues.
According to the impact assessment, there is a possibility there will be limited availability of medicinal drugs. The report warns this would have a “very high” impact on the county should it occur.
The report reads: “We will prioritise national government and NHS led response (including prioritisation of medicine imports and extra six weeks of supply to overcome any import disruption) through local communication and engagement, particularly around the need for local people and health and social care providers not to stockpile medicine.
“The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Health Resilience Partnership will have a focussed discussion on this risk at its January meeting.”
The report says it is “likely” there will be an increase in “community tensions” causing damage to community cohesion. This would have a “high” impact on the community.
The report says: “Our programme board being led by the service director for Communities and Safety will lead on a Communications and Community Engagement strategy, working closely with community and faith groups to communicate government information and messaging – particularly to highlight the EU settlement scheme to the voluntary and community sector and the wider public and the importance of EU and other non-UK citizens in supporting the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy.”
As well as this, the council warns it is possible there will be “complications on rights and status of EU citizens and workers”, which would have an impact on vulnerable people who “may not understand requirements”.
The report says it is “likely” there will be “complications on rights and status of EU citizens and workers”.
This means there may be a shortage of workers, especially in hard to fill roles such as in adult social care, children’s social care and education.
On top of this, the report says it is “very likely” there will be shortages of care workers, cleaners, security staff and construction personnel.
The council says it will support central government advice to social care providers (encouraging business continuity plans and to support and advise their EU staff) by “engaging in discussions with our providers about how they can encourage their employees to register and reassure them about any concerns they may have”.
Staff in the health and social care sector can apply for settled status now and, according to the report, will be encouraged to do so.
The report says it is “very likely there will be changes to rules for recruiting staff from outside the UK”. This, it says, would have a “very high” impact on the area.
“Government is still consulting on elements of its new migration policy although this is likely to prioritise highly skilled workers and include an income threshold.”
The report does, however, say it is “unlikely” there will be any loss of EU funding for projects, or loss of government funding. It also says it is “unlikely” there will be any reduction of income from business rates as a result of EU-owned businesses closing.
Despite this, the report does acknowledge it is “very likely” there will be pressures on budgets from other sectors, such as increase in cost of workforce in services, as well as cost of products and materials.
The report warns it is “possible” there could be a “potential shortage of fuel supplies” which would impact on staff travelling to deliver services. This, the report says, would have a “very high” impact on the region.
The report notes that “national government arrangements are in place to address disruption to supply of fuel”, with local arrangements being overseen and managed by the Local Resilience Forum. Despite that, a possibility remains that transport problems could arise due to the knock-on impact of border checks or barriers to trade.
According to the council: “This is a rapidly changing situation, and the impact assessment will need to be kept under very frequent review to reflect this.”
According to the report, the service director for communities and safety is the “nominated strategic sponsor” for Brexit preparations for both Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council.
A “cross-departmental taskforce” is now being formed to ensure the region is prepared to respond to the developments that emerge over the coming weeks.
There will also be discussions held with the council’s partners across the public sector, particularly its district council partners, to seek to develop a single shared plan to manage the impacts of Brexit, if any.
The report says a communications strategy and plan is being developed along with a community engagement strategy and plan to help support work to promote the EU Settlement Scheme for EU citizens.
Josh Thomas, Local Democracy Reporting Service