Cherwell's Labour leader demands information on mystery Brexit payment

Cllr Sean Woodcock, who has asked for detail of a Brexit payment made to Cherwell District Council
Cllr Sean Woodcock, who has asked for detail of a Brexit payment made to Cherwell District Council

A leading Banburyshire politician has called for detail on a mystery Brexit fund in Cherwell District Council's coffers.

Cllr Sean Woodcock, leader of the Labour group on the council said seeing the £17,000 deposit in the end of year accounts had come as a surprise.

"I take great interest Cherwell’s end of year accounts which were passed last month, though they usually contain few surprises," he said.

"This time I did discover something new. A mysterious reserve of £17,000 set aside labelled ‘Brexit’ that I had not seen before.

"The explanation of officers, is that this is a government grant in order to deal with any Brexit related issues but with no real expansion into what these issues might be.

"As we head inexorably towards ‘no deal’, we are being told that this country will be more than ready to crash out of a trading and customs relationship that we have been part of for the last 40 or more years.

"Councils are already stretched. Since 2010, Cherwell has lost a significant amount in government grant. The county council is in an even worse position," said Mr Woodcock.

"As a result, much of the funding for local services and infrastructure comes not from Council Tax or government grant, but from business rates and New Homes Bonus."

Mr Woodcock said a no-deal Brexit and the uncertainty it was creating poses a significant risk to councils.

"Disruption to business supply chains or to the housing market, particularly pertinent in this area, would hit councils bottom line causing a knock-on effect for local services," he said.

"Away from talk of food and medical shortages, it is time for local Conservatives to be honest with people about the impact of their ‘Brexit come-what-may’ policy?"

A spokesman for Cherwell District Council said: "All councils in the UK were provided with grant funding by central government in 2018/19 and will receive further grant in 2019/20 in case any extra expenditure is incurred over and above normal budgets related to Brexit.

"Cherwell District Council set aside the £17,000 already received last year to deal with any extra expenditure as it arises in this year. We can reassure residents that Cherwell District Council has been liaising with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU, including providing advice to communities and businesses, which can be found on our website: https://www.cherwell.gov.uk."