What are Cheltenham Borough Council doing about Brexit?

We asked them what plans they have for Brexit – Deal or No Deal

A few weeks ago, we submitted a Freedom of Information request to Cheltenham Borough Council, asking them to share with us their plans for Brexit and in particular for a No Deal Brexit. This was part of a coordinated initiative undertaken with the five other members of the Gloucestershire Forum for Europe to submit such requests to all public bodies in the county.

A full and helpful response

Cheltenham responded promptly with a full suite of documents. To date their reply is by far the most forthcoming of the public bodies who have been asked.  As a result, we submitted a set of further, more-focused questions to the Council. Philip Cole, Rod Gay, Mike Farmer and Adrian Phillips met Darren Knight, Executive Director of People and Change, to discuss these on 29 October. As a follow-up to our meeting, Mr Knight sent us a further reply to these additional questions.

We commend the Borough and its officers for the thoroughness and transparency of their reply to our requests for information.  We are very grateful to them, especially as it has become clear that some other public bodies are being far less forthcoming.  If anyone is interested in looking at the full correspondence, please get in touch with Cheltenham for Europe.

But for those who don’t have the time, here are a few headlines:

  • The Leader of the Council, Steve Jordan, wrote to Alex Chalk a few weeks ago to tell him that: “a ‘No Deal’ Brexit in particular could leave the Council having to make very tough decisions as we begin the budget setting process for the next financial year”. Pointing out that the Council was fully engaged in preparing for Brexit, he said he was “extremely concerned that the Government has failed to add any clarity to this uniquely perilous situation”.
  • UBICO, which collects waste in Cheltenham as well as delivering other services for residents, is concerned, particularly in a No Deal situation, about threats to its supply chain for vehicle parts, disposing of recycled materials that currently go to Europe, the possible impact of fuel supplies and loss of current employees who are EU nationals.
  • Cheltenham Borough Homes has similar concerns, especially about No Deal. They plan to assist tenants who are EU nationals as far as they can.
  • The Council are not directly responsible for health matters, social care, education, transport and other issues that are the responsibility of Gloucestershire County Council.  But they collaborate with the county and other public bodies on Brexit preparations through the Local Resilience Forum. The LRF is a rather shadowy organisation which would normally be asked to address issues like a major flood or a terrorist incident.   A separate request to them for information about Brexit plans has practically drawn a blank
  • The Borough has in place a number of strategies to develop Cheltenham and enable it to prosper is future. Mr Knight did not demur, however, when we put it to him that achievement of such desirable aims would be partly, if not radically, offset by the problems brought on by Brexit, especially as Cheltenham is likely to be disproportionately affected adversely.