Councils spend on emergency fuel tanks for Brexit

PUBLISHED: 19:14 25 November 2019 | UPDATED: 19:14 25 November 2019

Thousands spent on 'emergency' fuel tanks ahead of Brexit. Picture: PA/ PA WIRE

Thousands spent on 'emergency' fuel tanks ahead of Brexit. Picture: PA/ PA WIRE

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Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire have spent thousands of pounds on "emergency" fuel tanks in preparation for Brexit.

A spokesperson for South Cambridgeshire District Council said: "Central government has told us to ensure we have 10-days' worth of fuel supplies to support services which residents rely on.

"For us, this includes a fuel reserve for our bin collection trucks, so bins can continue to be emptied should there be any issue with the delivery of fuel."

The spokesperson clarified the advice "was cascaded down from Government to the Local Resilience Forum" and "was part of general preparations for Brexit - not specifically related to a no-deal".

The ministry of local government said it issues advice that all local authorities should consider a period of self-reliance for fuel supplies as part of their normal planning for any contingency scenario, saying this is not Brexit specific.

The ministry repeatedly refused to confirm or deny it had given specific Brexit-related advice on fuel reserves and did not provide further details when requested.

A freedom of information request sent by the local democracy reporting service reveals Cambridge City Council has spent £8,397 on Brexit preparations, and South Cambridgeshire has spent or committed £5,411.

The government has given every council in the country additional money to prepare for Brexit. Cambridge City Council says it has received a fund of £52,000.

The city council says its fuel tank was put in place for the October 31 Brexit deadline and is intended to stay in place until the next Brexit deadline of January 31. Based on normal usage, the council estimates the reserve would last around six and half weeks if needed.

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The council said the potential for fuel shortages to disrupt council services had been identified as part of its Brexit risk register.

Chief executive of Cambridge City Council, Antoinette Jackson, said: "Assessing risks to our services is a standard part of our day to day business but clearly Brexit brings particular challenges because of the ongoing uncertainties associated with it.

"Our Brexit risk register sets out possible impacts of Brexit on our services as far as we can anticipate them and how likely we think they might be. We have been cautious about making sure we have an emergency fuel supply so that council services are not disrupted should there be a temporary shortage.

"We will continue to review risks to our services as more information becomes available and individual risks may go up or down depending on the circumstances at any point in time."

The council said, "once the risk of shortages has passed the council will use the stored fuel for normal business, rather than purchasing at forecourts, until it is all used".

Renting the fuel tank has cost Cambridge City Council £1,737 to date, and the rest of the money has been spent on preparing a site to hold it, including delivery and installation, electrics, cameras and providing foundations.

A freedom of information request shows South Cambridgeshire District Council has "committed" £3,700 for "an additional fuel tank to combat fuel shortages" as part of its Brexit preparations.

A council spokesperson said "the tank has been rented and is in place. The money for this is coming from central government. It was provided as part of dedicated funding solely for councils to spend on Brexit preparations".

South Cambridgeshire has also spent £670 on a mail-out "to EU, EEA or Swiss citizens within South Cambridgeshire, identified via the open electoral register, encouraging them to find out more about the EU Settlement Scheme and apply if necessary". A further £1,000 has been spent on staffing costs allocated to Brexit preparations, including salaries, travel and subsistence.

Asked if the council's Brexit preparations will continue now that the October 31 deadline has passed, a council spokesperson said: "The government has told us that it is currently 'business as usual for Councils'. However, we always have plans in place, which we review as necessary, to ensure council services can continue to be provided when facing different risks. We are in regular contact with our suppliers and central government."

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