Services supporting the elderly and children could be affected if a no-deal Brexit leads to fuel shortages, a new report has warned.
A report outlining St Helens Council’s no-deal Brexit preparations is due to go before cabinet next week.
The report reveals that key council officers have been meeting for a number of months to consider effect of potential Brexit scenarios on council services.
The current deadline for leaving the EU is October 31.
One of the potential impacts of a no-deal Brexit that could have wide-ranging implications on council services is around the borough’s fuel supply.
“In the event of a no deal exit from the EU, there may be reduced or interrupted fuel supply,” the report says.
“It is possible that fuel prices may rise.
“There may be delays at Dover and other south coast ports, caused by increased customs and immigration checks in France, Holland and Belgium may mean that road haulage operators see routes through other ports, including Liverpool Superport, to Belfast and onward to The Republic of Ireland as being easier to negotiate.
“Potentially there could be increased freight traffic on local roads, greater wear on the highway network in the longer term, with a potential increase in demand for fuel supplies locally and regionally.”
The report says suppliers have assured the council that will continue to be supplied if a severe shortage occurs and that it remains a “top priority”.
It adds that a fuel plan is already in place for managing potential fuel disruption, which will be reviewed and updated.
The report says priority needs to be given to the workforce who provide more “critical services”, such as those supporting the most vulnerable residents.
However, the report says domiciliary care and residential facilities may still be affected.
“If there is a reduced fuel supply there may be a possibility that home based domiciliary care could be difficult to provide even with fuel prioritisation in place, staff in residential facilities may find it difficult to get to work, and the council’s transport fleet may experience fuel shortages,” the report says.
“These scenarios may also affect children’s services, particularly where children require home to school transport, especially if they rely on private hire vehicles for transport that may not be included in the council’s fuel plan.”
The council will also facilitate a special adult social care provider forum to ensure all providers have reviewed their business continuity plans in preparation for a no-deal Brexit.
The report says additional funding will be earmarked for council-funded adult social care providers in the event of general food and fuel price increases.
It is not anticipated that there will be any general food shortages.
However, the report says there could be a shortage of imported fresh produce and a “restricted” choice of food may occur. In this scenario food prices may rise.
This has the possibility to have an adverse effect on foodbanks and its users, the report says, as increased prices may reduce food donations while at increasing demand on their services. Additionally, there are concerns around the supply of school meals.
The report says its main school food supplier has developed its own business continuity plans to address the potential impact of Brexit.
The ability of school staff to make it into work is also a potential concern if there are fuel shortages.
Schools have been asked review their business continuity arrangements in relation to Brexit.
In terms of its own workforce, the report says the council faces “minimal exposure” to disruption of staffing levels as a result of the immigration status of EU nationals working for the council.
Potential fuel shortages could mean there is “limited access” to the workplace for some of its workforce.
To address this, the council will consider whether “agile working facilities” can be rolled out faster, allowing a greater proportion of the workforce to work from home immediately following Brexit.
To date the council has received or is estimated to receive £315,000 to prepare for Brexit.
The report says this will be used to produce a communications plan, based on guidance from government, for use in event of a no-deal exit.
The council will also move to reassure the public that there is unlikely to be any general food shortages to help avoid unnecessary stockpiling.
The report notes that there is no certainty any of the scenarios outlined in the report will occur.
In summary, the report says: “There remains great uncertainty over the impact of a no deal Brexit and the position continues to evolve.
“A detailed action plan has been developed and actions are being progressed at pace.
“Senior council officers are continuing to meet regularly to monitor the position and update the Action Plan accordingly.”