Brexit funding for councils ‘only half of what MHCLG requested’

25 Jan 19

The £35m of funding councils in England will share to help them cope with Brexit is only half of what the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government asked for.

Clive Betts Clive Betts, chair of the MHCLG committee, has told PF the department originally asked the Treasury for £70m.

The MHCLG has said it is “currently identifying where this money can best be allocated to ensure that the department and local areas are prepared for and can respond to EU exit”.

Councils are expected to receive the cash for 2019-20 in April - after the proposed Brexit date of 29 March.

Top civil servant Melanie Dawes, speaking at a MHCLG committee this week, said the money would be allocated “soon”.

Dawes refused to comment when Betts asked, during the committee meeting on Monday: “If I asked, you got half of [the money] you asked for – you would not correct me would you?” Dawes answered: “I am not commenting I’m afraid.”

Betts did not believe £35m would be enough to support councils in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“If things got very serious with a no-deal situation, councils will be dealing with food and medicine shortages and [coping with] real concern from the public,” he told PF.

“There are endless responsibilities, so councils have to have contingency plans with the police and others and I just don’t see that £35m spread amongst all the councils is going to be anything like sufficient.”

He added: “Although they haven’t said it publicly [the MHCLG] only got half of what they asked for for 2019-20 – they asked for £70m and got £35m.”

Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary at MHCLG, in her appearance before the HCLG committee on Monday, said: “Our secretary of state will say something quite shortly about allocation of the £35m that we secured from the Treasury.”

She added: “In some cases, we have additional responsibilities that other government departments may need councils to take on, for example inspection or work in ports.”

In the case of a council being given new responsibilities, Dawes said the council would receive funding from the relevant government department.

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “[The department] is committed to working with local government and local leaders to ensure they are adequately prepared to respond to any Brexit scenario.”

The department does “not anticipating a bidding process”, the spokesperson added.

The £35m is far below the Brexit funding given to the Home Office (£480m), Defra (£410m), HMRC (£375m) and BEIS (£190m). The communities secretary James Brokenshire has written to chancellor Philip Hammond for more funds.

This week, Stephen Kinnock spoke to PF about his concerns over the delayed consultation for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace targeted EU regional funding.

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