Brexit preparation funds branded 'far too little, far too late' by council leader

PUBLISHED: 10:43 21 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:46 21 August 2019

Hundreds of trucks wait their turn to enter the port of Dover on the M20 at Folkestone, Kent. Photograph: David Giles/PA.

Hundreds of trucks wait their turn to enter the port of Dover on the M20 at Folkestone, Kent. Photograph: David Giles/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Following a government announcement of £9 million in Brexit preparation funding for councils, Portsmouth council's Liberal Democrat leader has called it "far too little and far too late".

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Portsmouth is one of the port areas that has been prioritised for £5 million of that funding by the government in order to handle potential customs chaos. The remaining £4 million will be shared between local resilience forums.

But Lib Dem city council leader for Portsmouth, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said it was far from enough cash, and that government inefficiency on Brexit preparations so far cannot be allowed to "crucify" the city.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "We've spent, ourselves and Hampshire County Council, £4 million to get ready for a no-deal Brexit. We've continuously asked government to refund this. So far I think we've had 350,000 quid."

He added: "The government's been happy to give money to ferry companies who have no ferries - it was 20-odd million quid - but they've not been happy to help local authorities get ready. And we've had to plan to try to make sure that if there is a no-deal Brexit the whole of the south coast along the M27 doesn't grind to a halt because you've got queues of lorries trying to get into the port who can't get in."

He went on: "What we have done is we've been out and we've spent the money because we have to, we can't allow government inaction and inefficiency to crucify Portsmouth."

He added: "We could have been spending that money on building schools for local kids, that money is now spent. What we hope is the government will come back and reimburse us for that expenditure."

Housing minister Robert Jenrick insisted the government had given "significant" sums to councils for Breixt preparation.

"We've actually been giving significant amounts of money to local authorities," he told the Today programme. "With the money that we're announcing today we will have given £77 million to local authorities across the country to prepare for our departure from the EU on the 31st October.

He added: "I have been very impressed by local authorities, by the way that they are tackling this issue, the determination that they have to be well prepared."

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