With uncertainty still surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU, East Ayrshire Council continues to prepare for a potential no deal scenario.
At Cabinet last week, Chief Executive, Fiona Lees outlined the Council’s priorities in relation to Brexit and the steps taken by the Council to date.
She said: “Leaving the EU will have implications for East Ayrshire Council, our partners and East Ayrshire as a whole. We have identified a number of potential risks that could impact on our communities, local businesses, service delivery and operations.
“To prepare for this and to ensure that mitigating actions can be put in place, we have established an EU Exit Preparedness Group. This Group is tasked with considering the likely impacts on service delivery resulting from different EU exit outcomes and identifying any actions required to mitigate potential negative impacts.
“We are working with partners, including Scottish and UK Governments, to understand any shared risks and any joint response appropriate to manage any potential impacts. Through our involvement with COSLA and SOLACE we share our activities and approaches with other local authorities and relevant bodies across the UK to identify best practice.
“The impact of the UK leaving the European Union has featured highly in our Corporate Risk Register since August 2016 and is subject to regular review. The overall risk to the Council is considered to be ‘high’ due to the uncertainties around the impact that leaving the EU will have.”
The Council’s preparations are principally focussed on providing support for vulnerable people as it is widely anticipated that projected increases to cost of living through food and domestic energy price rises will have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable.
East Ayrshire’s dignified food programme has been enhanced and strengthened, through school meal provision, holiday programmes and local pantries. Arrangements are in place for alternative menus and food stock management in the event of disruption to supplies with increased orders for a number of specific products being considered. Additional freezer capacity has been arranged to support the dignified food programmes.
In terms of fuel poverty, effects from a no-deal scenario may not be felt immediately owing to Ofgem’s Energy Price Cap. The next review of the Energy Price Cap is due on 7 February 2020 where it is anticipated that their will be a significant increase in fuel tariffs. The East Ayrshire Poverty Action Group is working with key partner agencies including Citrus Energy, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Home Energy Scotland to consider how best to support those worst affected by these.
On 8 October 2019, Scottish Government published that, in the event of a no deal, they will establish a £7 million Rapid Poverty Mitigation Fund. The Council’s share of this new Fund will allow us to scale-up our responses to food insecurity and fuel poverty.
The overall economic impact for East Ayrshire is likely to be negative in almost all scenarios. This may affect employment, investment, relocation and growth generally and the Council’s Economic Development Team continues to engage with local businesses, providing support and guidance where required, to supplement the resources that have been developed by Scottish Enterprise to mitigate the impact of a no-deal exit.
Operationally, the Council is considering the potential impact on a number of daily activities. There is ongoing engagement with Scotland Excel and Scottish Procurement to consider the impact on Council contracts and procurement arrangements and these will continue to be kept under review. The Council’s fuel plan has been reviewed and will come into effect in the event of any fuel shortages. Civil contingency and emergency planning arrangements are well established and provide the framework for responding to any concurrent events, including severe weather, that may arise during any ‘no deal’ period.
If you have any concerns about the impact of Brexit, the UK and Scottish Governments have published advice and guidance to help individual citizens and businesses prepare for the process of leaving the European Union (EU). The Council’s website includes a number of useful links at Brexit Information.