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Calderdale Brexit Update

Josh Fenton-GlynnJosh Fenton-Glynn, one of Hebden Bridge's 3 Calderdale councillors, gives a personal report of the Council's Brexit discussions and how leaving Europe will affect Calderdale.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

This week, I attended the scrutiny board where we discussed the council's preparedness for Brexit. This was something I asked to be covered by the committee at the start of the year, but something that feels a lot more pertinent now.

We looked at some of the items on Calderdale Councils risk register and it is pretty grim reading. It is notable that while most of the potential risks are either more likely or likely to have a greater impact if we leave the European Union without a deal.

The officers who spoke to us included our councils corporate risk manager who has been drafted in to work on Brexit and associated risks full time. It was interesting to see the way the local Conservatives - locally largely pro Brexit and unconcerned by the prospect of no deal - sought to undermine and question every piece of evidence presented. At one point, they interrupted the independent officers to such an extent it made it difficult for them to continue the presentation and Labour members of the committee had to intervene to ask the chair (a Conservative) to allow the presentation to continue.

The information was bleak:

  • Calderdale is the 13th most at risk authority out of 159 local authorities and 21st most vulnerable in the case of a no deal Brexit owing to the large number of manufacturing industries and farmers.
  • 54% percent of Calderdale business exports are to the EU, that compares to only 4% to the US
  • Many businesses import materials as part of their manufacturing process - agriculture, especially, relies on imported equipment and imported food.
  • The anticipated drop in value added by Calderdale businesses is 2.4% under no deal and 1.3% with a deal.

Other risks that Calderdale have to be aware of is the likely initial rise in food prices with a no deal Brexit, prices will go up both for our suppliers as well as the possibility of more people will be needing support with incomes being hit.

While the government has promised to guarantee funding until 2020, we have no idea what it will be replaced by. The government have made a great play of the £20 million of funding for local authorities to prepare for no deal Brexit. Not only is that less nationally than the level of cuts Calderdale has undergone in the past 10 years, but also the share Calderdale will receive of that money is only £104,000.

Everything that affects Calderdale businesses will also hit Calderdale suppliers and Calderdale itself. This includes the impact of insecurity of staff from the EU27 who work in industries such as care.

I think the thing that concerns me most is the impact of not the single issues that can be mitigated against, but when the issues interact, so when we have to deal with a cut in our workforce, businesses giving less from the rate pool, and the price of basics like food and fuel going up. The so called unknown unknowns.

It is for precisely this reason, we need scrutiny of Government. Even if we are going to a no deal, it is vital that we get the legislation to prepare our core businesses and infrastructure for the impacts of no deal. No deal is a danger to our country and the fact that the Government is hiding from scrutiny through the prorogation of parliament for this is both irresponsible and worrying.