To receive a presentation from the Executive Director of Place with regard to preparations being made by Dorset Council in respect of EU Exit.
The committee received a presentation from the Executive Director of Place, which set out the preparations being undertaken by Dorset Council in respect of EU Exit. The update covered the work that had been undertaken by the council and noted that an extension for EU Exit had been granted until 31 January 2020.
It was reported that:-
· Yellowhammer had now been stood down by the Government and thanks had been received for all the councils’ efforts. It was noted that the merging of the council’s had assisted with the Brexit challenge by bring things together in terms of planning for emergencies. Time had been well spent that would have had to be done under any scenario.
· There were now a number of things the Government was asking councils to do. Reference was made to the Strategic Officer group, which consisted of officers at Director level drawn from across the organisation. The Group met on a weekly basis and the importance of having good channels of communication for what was an emerging situation was highlighted.
· Focus was on the on the EU Settlement Scheme – the Government were aware that a lot of people had not registered for this yet. A number of EU nationals were on the payroll and it was important to ensure the relevant staff had the appropriate advice. There was an Advisor at the Chamber of Commerce in place to provide information to businesses as it was suspected that a lot of businesses would be looking for advice. Officers also had a close link with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. It would be difficult to predict the information businesses would need until after 1 February 2020. It was highlighted that a lot of the communication regarding businesses was being led by a Government programme and not directly by the Chamber of Commerce or the LEP.
Following a question about what the council was doing to mitigate the risk of losing a number of EU Nationals on the payroll, the Executive Director for Place advised that because of the legislative position officer could only provide guidance and not advice, that was the role of government advisors. Councils had been asked to raise awareness within their communities. There were advisors in the Citizens Advice Bureaux which could assist people. However, officers were being vigilant about the number s of EU national staff that were currently working for the Council. In respect of staff that looked after vulnerable children the Government had made it clear there would be additional funding for this. In respect of those staff that looked after vulnerable adults, the Government were also concerned with this, the Director of People - Adults had been involved in this regard through the Strategic Group and helpful guidance from the Government had been issued. The Corporate Director for Legal and Democratic Services added that the aim was to encourage people to register to ensure there wasn’t a shortfall in the workforce and to get some direct communications in place using the open Electoral Register for people that were registered to vote. The aim was to also get some direct communications in place using the Open electoral register for people that were registered to vote.
Following a discussion regarding shipping and there was still a potential risk, the Executive Director for Place advised that if Poole was one of the ports designated with additional capacity there was now a contingency plan in place.
The Vice-Chairman felt it would be helpful for members to receive a written report setting out a retrospective view on how the risks had been managed along with any lessons learned. The Executive Director - Place confirmed that the issues were logged on the Corporate Risk Register. With regards to Internal Audit, the Corporate Director – Legal and Democratic Services advised that this was not in the Internal Audit workplan. However, there was report being presented to the Senior Leadership Team shortly about the Brexit programme which would come to the Audit and Governance Committee at a later date.
One member expressed concern regarding farming and felt this area specifically would be affected quite drastically. There was already evidence of labour market problems. One of the main concerns was for large farmers and how they would cope with this. He suggested engaging with Kingston Maurward College to encourage young people into the farming industry.
In response to a query about the UK shared prosperity fund, which would replace EU money, the Executive Director – Place advised that the LEP was keen for this money to be channelled through them whilst the Local Government Association wanted to see the monies go through local councils. This was still very much a watch this space scenario. With regards to procurement and whether there would be any prospect of simplifying the process councils had to go through for purchasing, the Executive Director advised he was hopeful that the Government would seek to remove some of the red tape.
That members receive a report which included a retrospective view of the processes along with any lessons learned.