Councils facing ‘near impossible’ Brexit preparations

30 Jan 19

Preparing for Brexit without a definitive deal is “near impossible” for councils despite extra funding, CIPFA has warned.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire this week handed a total of £56.5m to help councils deal with Brexit over the next two years – £21.5m more than was initially allocated.

But Rob Whiteman, CIPFA chief executive, warned: “While additional funds are welcome, without any certainty around what form Brexit will take, let alone the medium-to-long-term funding of local authorities, making preparations will be near impossible.

“These additional resources have come just two months before the conclusion of Article 50, and local government remains in the dark about their future arrangements with the EU.”

The government’s initial £35m of ‘Brexit funding’ for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government was considerably less than that afforded to other departments, including the Home Office (£480m), Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (£410m), HMRC (£375m) and BEIS (£190m). MHCLG has said the additional funds for Brexit planning will have to be allocated from its 2018-19 budget.

Julia Goldsworthy, chair of CIPFA’s Brexit Advisory Commission for Public Services, said that while the announcement of additional funding is welcome, local authorities’ expenditure on preparing for Brexit has already surpassed the amount being allocated to them.

“This funding announcement is a welcome recognition of local government’s frontline role in managing a disrupted exit from the EU,” she said. “Resource far outweighing that committed yesterday has already been spent by local authorities in preparation – and what would be the greatest help to them now is certainty on the terms and timing of exit.”

Brokenshire said that the additional funding would be broken down as follows:

  • £20m to councils for this financial year (2018-19)
  • £20m to councils for next financial year (2019-20)
  • £10m for next financial year to help with “specific costs which may arise following Brexit”
  • £5m to be split between teams in MHCLG, local authorities and local resilience forums
  • £1.5m allocated only to local authorities facing immediate impacts from local ports, with the decision on the allocation and distribution of that funding to be announced shortly.

Brokenshire said on Tuesday: “Local authorities have a critical role to play in making a success of Brexit in their areas. I will continue to work closely with local leaders to ensure they are prepared to respond to any Brexit scenario.”

Last week, PF heard that the £35m MHCLG initially received from the Treasury was just half of what it had asked for.

PF recently reported that councils were planning on using their reserves to fund any additional costs that may arise from Brexit.

In December, Goldsworthy advised local authorities to prepare now for any kind of Brexit.

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