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No-deal Brexit: Kent County Council report warns of uncollected rubbish and carers unable to reach elderly

By Paul Francis

Gridlocked roads caused by a no-deal Brexit could leave household rubbish uncollected, children unable to take exams and carers unable to reach vulnerable elderly people, a report by Kent County Council has warned.

Hundreds of council staff could have to work from home for up to six months as part of contingency plans to mitigate against the impact of Operation Brock, the traffic management scheme for the motorway that would be implemented in the event of disruption at ports either side of the channel.

The concerns are flagged up in a 17-page report by KCC up-dating the challenges a “no deal” Brexit could bring to the county council.

Operation Stack blighted Kent's roads in 2015 and there are fears a no-deal Brexit could cause similar chaos
Operation Stack blighted Kent's roads in 2015 and there are fears a no-deal Brexit could cause similar chaos

It warns: “An inability to travel around the county may have a direct impact on KCC’s delivery of statutory services.”

The areas of concern include:

  • Kent needing to cope with holding up to 10,000 HGVs on a routine basis
  • Food supplies at risk as safety testing becomes more difficult
  • Children missing important exams such as GCSEs and Sats because of traffic gridlock
  • KCC staff possibly having to work from home for up to six months
  • Carers unable to get to vulnerable adults because of traffic gridlock
  • Schools seeing attendance levels drop
  • Disruption to waste collection services leading to a build-up of rubbish
  • Home to school transport for Special Education Needs (SEN) could be severely challenged
  • Difficulties for the Coroners service transporting the deceased to post mortem or body storage facilities
  • Pressure on trading standards as more checks could take a longer time
  • An increase in the numbers of migrants arriving in Kent, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

The report says KCC service standards “could be impacted and services may not be able to operate to the same levels as prior to Brexit.”

To address the challenges, KCC says work is underway to mitigate against the problem of widespread disruption to services.

Schools have been asked to review travel plans for staff and pupils and put contingencies in place if people cannot get to school.

They have also been told to plan for poor air quality caused by idling HGVs outside school buildings.

Operation Stack blighted Kent's roads in 2015 and there are fears a no-deal Brexit could cause similar chaos
Operation Stack blighted Kent's roads in 2015 and there are fears a no-deal Brexit could cause similar chaos

To ensure traffic can be kept moving, KCC is asking the government for £20 million to help improve its roads as they will be used as diversionary routes when Operation Brock comes into effect.

It says the government should fund more training standards officers and has costed that at £362,000 for 14 new staff and setting up a base near to Dover.

The report identifies measures the council is considering to help limit the impact on vulnerable people reliant on care.

It says social care services have been told to identify staff who live close to particularly vulnerable patients, who may be able to visit if their regular career cannot reach them.

It is also weighing up the opportunity for staff to work at libraries and other KCC offices closer to their homes.

But the council says those options are not possible for certain staff such as those in children’s services because they need access to paper files to deliver services.

On the disruption to waste collection, it says that removal of bulky waste could be suspended.

The report outlines the cost implications for certain services, together running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

One less well-known service that could be affected is Kent Scientific Services, which tests food to ensure it is safe. This testing relies on chemicals imported from the EU, and on samples being able to move freely and quickly around the county.

KCC says the transportation of physical samples to the laboratory in Kings Hill could present a challenge.

If this testing cannot be done, food supplies could be disrupted as it will become impossible to tell whether imports are fit for human consumption.

Opposition Lib Dem group leader Cllr Rob Bird said the report underlined the pressures on Kent.

He said: “The threats of a no deal Brexit are very real.

"So real in fact that Kent County Council has already committed millions of pounds of taxpayer's money in order to mitigate the worst effects. We are still waiting for the government’s cheque.”

KCC has been approached for comment.

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