Borough misses out on Brexit port cash

THURROCK Council has not independently lobbied the government over extra funding to prepare for Brexit, despite other authorities that are home to major ports benefitting from a cash boost.

Twenty nine councils which have major ports were handed a share of £5million in August as part of a Government effort to boost Brexit preparations but Thurrock – home to three major ports and one of the gateways into London – got nothing.

A freedom of information request submitted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service about what conversations had occurred between the authority and the government regarding this funding shows that none have taken place.

The council also received no information from the government about why it was not among the 29 to benefit from port funding.

This is despite warnings that leaving the European Union without a deal could result in areas with ports facing severe congestion on the roads due to HGVs being held up as a result of changes to custom arrangements.

Furthermore, the council confirmed in July that it is stockpiling fuel and planning for staff to use bicycles because “the highest assessed risk by our Emergency Resilience Group for Thurrock post Brexit is a gridlocked borough”.

The council has relied on conversations about Brexit planning to go through the county-wide Essex Resilience Forum, which they are a part of, and the region-wide East of England Local Government Association.

The freedom of information request also shows the council has “not published any reports on Brexit planning”, nor has it recruited any extra staff members to prepare for the UK’s departure.

A spokesman for the council said: “As the freedom of information response makes clear, Brexit conversations with central government are through East of England Local Government Association or through the Essex Resilience Forum.

“Thurrock has received three instalments of £105,000 for contingency planning – totalling £315,000, similar to most local authorities. Thurrock Council is an active member of the Essex Resilience Forum and has its own Brexit Working Group.”

They did not comment on missing out on the extra money handed to other authorities which are home to ports.

Brexit is expected to be a key topic in the general election taking place on December 12. The election was called by Prime Minister Boris Johnson following months of disagreements and divisions over the issue.

The Conservative Party hope to gain enough of a majority to allow them to easily pass new laws, making Mr Johnson’s Brexit plan easier to push through but Labour has promised a second referendum, giving voters the chance to choose between a fresh deal or cancelling Brexit. The Liberal Democrats say they will abandon Brexit entirely, without a vote.

Jackie Doyle-Price will be standing for the Conservatives, John Kent will be the candidate for Labour, Stewart Stone will stand for the Liberal Democrats, Ben Harvey will stand for The Green Party and James Woollard will stand as an Independent.