Oxfordshire councils hopeful of low Brexit impact but roads could be disrupted

Disruption on the roads because of Brexit was highlighted as an area of concern but authorities remain hopeful its impact will be low.

Agencies say they think the biggest problems created by the UK’s departure from the EU – scheduled for March 29 – will be to lorry traffic and disruption to the Oxfordshire supply chain.

Brexit

Brexit

Despite continued uncertainty over Brexit, the county council insisted Oxfordshire will be ‘well prepared’.

But it said it has contacted the Government for advice over potential problems to the county’s science and innovation sector.

Chief fire officer Simon Furlong, who is responsible for emergency planning at the county council, said: “The biggest risk of disruption is to transport and the supply chain, for instance managing lorry traffic to or from the south coast ports.

“The Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum already has plans to manage the impact of major disruption to strategic roads in the area which are being reviewed in the context of Brexit.”

The council’s work is fed into the forum, which is made up of representatives from local authorities, emergency services, environment-related Government bodies, the NHS and other health bodies.

Mr Furlong insisted all work is ‘proportionate’ and added: “Oxfordshire has a strong local economy that means it is relatively well placed to deal with any immediate economic change from leaving the EU.

“That said, we recognise concerns expressed by local employers about issues such as the supply chain and staffing.”

“We have contacted the Government in relation to Oxfordshire’s science and innovation sector.”

He added: “Oxfordshire is low risk. There might be a limited increase in traffic but our existing plans have been assessed as adequate to deal with this scenario.”

Graeme Kane, chief operating officer for Cherwell District Council, said: “Oxfordshire communities should be reassured their local councils and agencies are working together to prepare for the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

“Thanks to our strong and vibrant local economy, any disruption to Oxfordshire as a result of Brexit has been assessed as being low risk.

“Nevertheless, we are working together to ensure plans are in place to support our communities and businesses through this period of change.”

West Oxfordshire District Council head of paid service Giles Hughes added: “We are working together with our partners from across the county to monitor the situation; to build good relationships and stay abreast of developments as more information about the Brexit process becomes available.

“This joined-up approach to planning gives us confidence that there is no significant risk posed to council services, whatever outcome is agreed by central government.”

Last month, the county council was allocated about 0.15 per cent of a Government fund to support Brexit preparation.

From a £56.5m pot given to authorities over this financial year and in 2019/20, Oxfordshire will receive a total of £87,500.

Another £3.1m was announced for 19 local authorities with major air, land or sea ports yesterday.

As part of the county council’s work, potential risks to vulnerable people have been identified and ‘are being mitigated,’ Mr Furlong said.

But opponents to Brexit insists any disruption should mean the Government pauses before it is finalised.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “The dangers of the UK crashing out of the EU continue to generate much uncertainty for businesses, communities and public services across Oxfordshire.”

Ms Moran, who supports a People’s Vote, said: “Whilst I am pleased that public bodies have assessed risks to public safety and normal daily life as low, it is astonishing that they need to make these sorts of assessments in the first place.”

When the EU referendum was held in June 2016, Cherwell was the only Oxfordshire district to vote to leave.