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Maidstone council leader slams 'derisory' £50,000 for Brexit preparations

Maidstone has been given a "derisory" 5% of the money it estimates in needs to prepare for Brexit by the government, the council leader has claimed.

Housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick announced over the weekend £20 million will be allocated between hundreds of local authorities across the country so Britain can leave the European Union as smoothly as possible on October 31.

This means Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) will receive around £50,000 but bosses say the true cost of such preparations is likely to exceed £1m - more than 20 times the money allocated by the government.

Council attacks Brexit funding plans

In recent months, public bodies have put a series of measures in place to mitigate a worst case scenario, including testing the strength of online networks so officials can work from home if the roads become gridlocked.

Likewise, the neighbouring Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council has spent £50,000 on laptops for remote working, while suggesting a disorderly exit could result in dirty streets and overflowing rubbish bins.

MBC says it faces particular challenges as the borough lies on the M20, which will be badly affected by any delays at the Channel ports and will incur additional costs arising from traffic disruption to regular services, including waste collection, and from littering on busy routes used by international traffic like the A249 - Detling Hill.

Bins may not be collected on time after Britain leaves the European Union, council chiefs are warning
Bins may not be collected on time after Britain leaves the European Union, council chiefs are warning

MBC leader Cllr Martin Cox said: “Maidstone Borough Council realises it has a vital role to play in helping make Brexit happen and there has been an enormous amount of work and preparation already put in by our officers and councillors.

“The announcement made by Robert Jenrick to provide £20 million for councils to prepare for delivering Brexit on October 31 is frankly derisory.

"Given that there are around 400 councils in England, this equates to £50K each, and we have estimated that in Maidstone alone our potential costs are over £1m.”

Maidstone Borough Council leader Martin Cox
Maidstone Borough Council leader Martin Cox

In his announcement, Mr Jenrick did acknowledge the work of local authorities in delivering frontline public services, the pressures councils face and how they support local businesses and help vulnerable people.

Mark Green, MBC Director of Finance & Business Improvement added: “It is encouraging to hear that the Secretary of State has recognised how important it is for councils to work closely with their local resilience forum, which is exactly what MBC is doing.

“However, it doesn’t appear that Mr Jenrick has taken in to account exactly what is involved in this work and the cost to local authorities who have already prepared extensively for October 31, and unfortunately this will cost a lot more than our share of the £20m that has been announced.”

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